Parents Sue Hospital For Toddler’s Sex Assignment Surgery

The adoptive parents of a young child are suing a South Carolina hospital and the state’s child welfare agency for performing sex assignment surgery when it wasn’t necessary.

The child, only named as M.C., was born eight years ago with male and female genitals. Doctors determined at that time that the child had an intersex condition.

When M.C. was 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and officials with the department decided the toddler should undergo sex assignment surgery. They made M.C. a girl, removing all male genitalia from the child’s body.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit against the hospital and social services on Tuesday, saying that they violated the child’s constitutional rights when they chose to make M.C. a girl instead of a boy. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of M.C.’s parents, Mark and Pam Crawford.

The child, now eight, identifies as a boy. He wears boy clothes and has a boy haircut. He has also told his school and his religious community that he has always been a boy. And, technically, this is true.

The SPLC lawsuit states that the defendants’ violated M.C.’s substantive and procedural due process rights, which are outlined in the 14th Amendment, because they subjected the child to unnecessary surgery. They allege the surgery was done “without notice or a hearing to determine whether the procedure was in M.C.’s best interest.

The lawsuit also alleges that the doctors committed malpractice by performing the surgery, because they failed to obtain correct consent. The suit filed over a child’s sex assignment surgery is the first of its kind in the United States. Alesdair H. Ittelson, SPLC staff attorney, stated:

“This case is about ensuring the safety of all children who do not have a voice. No one advocated for M.C.’s right to be free from unnecessary medical intervention at a time when the state was entrusted with his safety and well-being.”

Doctors have been performing sex assignment surgeries since the 1950s on infants with intersex conditions. Long-term outcomes of today’s genital surgeries have not been studied. However, many doctors and advocates do not recommend the surgery until the child chooses to identify with a gender.

Some risks of sex-assignment surgery include chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, sterility, loss of the important health benefits of hormones.

Do you think the parents of M.C. have the right to sue over her sex assignment surgery? Was the child’s surgery a violation of his constitutional rights?

[Image via ShutterStock]