Vanderbilt pauses gender-affirming surgeries for minors

Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., is pausing gender affirmation surgeries on patients under age 18 while it completes an internal clinical review of recently released guidance related to the treatment of transgender people.

VUMC said it will halt the surgeries while it reviews a new version of recommendations from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and seek advice from local and national clinical experts. 

VUMC announced the news in an Oct. 7 letter to Tennessee Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, who, along with other Republican members of the Tennessee House of Representatives, had raised concerns about gender-affirming care provided at the Clinic for Transgender Health at VUMC.

In the letter to Mr. Zachary, VUMC said it began its transgender health clinic in 2018, and that among patients under 18 receiving transgender care, an average of five annually have received gender-affirming surgical procedures.

None of these patients were under age 16, none had received genital procedures, and VUMC obtained parental consent to these procedures in all cases, the letter said.

The letter also said these surgeries were not paid for by state or federal funds: "The revenues from this limited number of surgeries represent an immaterial percentage of VUMC's net operating revenue."

Mr. Zachary shared the letter, signed by C. Wright Pinson, MD, deputy CEO and chief health system officer at VUMC, on Twitter. A spokesperson for VUMC confirmed the validity of the letter but declined to comment further to The Tennessean.

In September, about 60 Republican members of the Tennessee House of Representatives raised concerns about gender-affirming care provided at VUMC after Matt Walsh, a columnist with the Daily Wire, a conservative news website and news company, posted a series of tweets about VUMC's transgender health clinic.

The posts alleged that VUMC "drugs, chemically castrates and performs double mastectomies on minors." They also included a video of Shayne Sebold Taylor, MD, a physician at the VUMC Clinic for Transgender Health, in 2018 saying that the surgeries "make a lot of money" and that female-to-male bottom surgeries "are huge moneymakers." Additionally, Mr. Walsh posted a video in which another physician, Ellen Clayton, MD, tells employees that not participating in transition surgeries because of religious beliefs "is not without consequences." VUMC has denied allegations indicated in the posts.

In the Oct. 7 letter, VUMC said it provides transgender care according to national and international standards, and employees may request an accommodation to be excused from participating in care they believe is morally objectionable.

In September, Mr. Zachary and other Republican lawmakers said they were alarmed by recent reports from the Daily Wire and called on VUMC to stop providing gender-affirming surgeries. Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti also pledged to investigate claims against VUMC's transgender care clinic.

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