By Howard Portnoy on July 10, 2015
As unfathomable as it sounds, such a panel exists in the state of Oregon and has the Orwellian-sounding name Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC). This 13-member panel is hand-selected by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Fox News reports that HERC recently changed its policy to include cross-sex hormone therapy, puberty-suppressing drugs, and gender-reassignment surgery for people with gender dysphoria. Since the age of medical consent in Oregon is 15, your 15-year-old can decide on his own to become a her. To add insult to horrific injury, covered medical procedures are paid for through the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. This means that although parents don’t get to participate in their child’s decision to undergo life-altering medical treatment, they do ultimately get stuck with the bill.
Paul McHugh, of the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Department and himself a pioneer in gender reassignment surgery, says Oregon’s policy amounts to child abuse. He is quoted as saying:
We have a very radical and even mutilating treatment being offered to children without any evidence that the long-term outcome of this would be good.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry further calls into question the wisdom of this procedure, noting as it does that “most children with gender dysphoria will not remain gender dysphoric after puberty.”
Jenn Burleton, who herself underwent sex-reassignment surgery and founded the Portland non-profit group TransActive, argues that the policy has the potential to save young lives:
Parents may not be supportive. They may not be in an environment where they feel the parent will affirm their identity, this may have been going on for years.
But a study conducted by Britain’s National Health Service found that the percentage of those who commit suicide after being denied the surgery is nearly identical to the percentage of people who kill themselves after receiving the surgery.
It is clear that more research is needed on this topic. In the meantime, one would be hard-pressed to justify letting any child make the decision unilaterally to undergo any surgery.