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Journal Article


Robles M. Linacre Q. 2021; 88(3): 259-271.


(Copyright © 2021, Catholic Medical Association)






Since the establishment of the first transgender clinic in the United States in 2007, over sixty clinics associated with children's hospitals have opened across the nation and are seeing very young children and adolescents with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (GD). Once known as gender identity disorder, GD has been redefined by the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) not as a mental illness but as the distress experienced by individuals related to their biological sex. The widely accepted practice of gender-affirming therapy (GAT) to treat a vulnerable population despite the associated health risks, the lack of supportive scientific evidence for the pharmacological and surgical interventions, along with the unqualified claim that these interventions will decrease the rate of suicide in these individuals presents a significant bioethical dilemma. The growing trend of GD not only impacts the individuals diagnosed but also society, culture, and the integrity of the profession of medicine. This article utilizes the five-box method, an ethical decision-making framework, to address the implications of the proposed treatment. Once applied, it becomes clear that the hormonal and surgical approaches used are not scientifically or ethically justified. The patient's autonomy and preferences should be respected, yet constrained, if there exists a considerable risk to the well-being of the individual without proven benefits. The quality of life of those receiving this treatment has not been shown to be significantly improved long term, and the mental, physical, and spiritual health of individuals with GD is not thoroughly addressed in these clinics. The important social and contextual factors, on both microcosmic and macrocosmic scales, are minimized in favor of promoting an ideology. Ultimately, Catholic moral teaching reveals that this widely recommended treatment violates the body-soul union, disregards the principle of totality and integrity, and debases the dignity of humanity. SUMMARY: This article examines GAT, the paradigm used in treating individuals identifying as transgender, through the lens of an EDMF. Each stage of this widely proposed treatment - social affirmation, pubertal blockade, administration of cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery - poses harms and risks that are not fully disclosed to minors and families, creating a bioethical dilemma. Dialogue utilizing science and reasoning must be encouraged to assist individuals who experience a gender identity that rejects their biological sex. This approach would also contribute to the well-being of society.

Language: en


Children; Suicide; Adolescent health; Bioethical dilemma; Cross-sex hormones; Ethical decision-making framework; Gender dysphoria; Puberty blockers; Sex reassignment surgery; Transgender


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