Imagine needing medical care but being refused by doctors. Not because they are unable to help or because of financial barriers, but because the doctors are simply unwilling to help you.
That is exactly what happened to Thomas Beatie, also known as the Pregnant Man. Beatie decided to get pregnant and give birth due to his partner’s inability to bear children. But he was refused treatment from doctors, going through nine doctors during the course of his pregnancy.
Beatie eventually received the medical care he needed and now has two healthy babies. Beatie was lucky that, despite prejudices from medical providers, he received treatment fast enough to avoid any medical disasters.
Unfortunately, Beatie isn’t the only transgender person facing problems with health care discrimination. Many transgender people face barriers in receiving adequate health care. Transgender people are sometimes outright refused medical treatment, even when their medical problem is unrelated to their sex. All told, medical providers frequently discriminate against transgender patients, affecting some 70 percent of transgender individuals.
How can doctors, with an ethical responsibility to help patients, refuse to provide care simply due to personal prejudices and lack of understanding?
With the recent debates over the new healthcare law, access to healthcare is on everyone’s minds. But we often forget that, without laws preventing discrimination against transgender individuals, the new healthcare law won’t protect transgender people as much as it should.
So how will the healthcare bill impact transgender people seeking treatment? Regrettably, not very much.
The healthcare reform law forbids discrimination based on factors including race, ethnicity, sex, age, and disability. But discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is only forbidden in the states and cities that already have laws protecting LGBT individuals. Additionally, health insurance providers can continue to exclude transition-related care, and those transitioning may still be unfairly denied claims due to their transition.
The healthcare and medical procedures available to transgender people are meaningless if transgender people can’t even get basic medical help when they need it. Health care professionals must remain professional and provide medical help to the best of their abilities – or be held accountable when they act against the best interests of their patients.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons