Human rights versus bottom line
A government human rights agency in the UK plans to sue the government health service for not helping transgender patients to transition.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission claims that the National Health Service is obliged to provide fertility services for transgender patients with gender dysphoria, a treatment that normally results in a loss of fertility. If their sperm or eggs are frozen and stored, it is still possible for them to have children later in life.
But since many of these patients are teenagers, they cannot afford this. The EHRC claims that this constitutes discrimination against transgenders. The NHS responds that it is not responsible for providing fertility services to all patients.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, says that “We are proceeding with our judicial review claim and will remain in discussions with NHS England about the need to ensure the transgender community can access health services free from discrimination, and that individuals do not have to choose between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family.”
The NHS may be concerned about the potential for the cost of treating transgender patients to spiral out of control. The minister for women and equalities, Penny Mordaunt, has reportedly asked for an explanation of why the number of girls referred for transitioning has risen from 40 to 1,806 — 4,400% — over the past ten years.
If the NHS is forced to provide fertility treatment for them, it may be forced to reduce the level of service for conventional fertility patients – who are currently complaining bitterly about the low levels of service. A spokeswoman told the media: “NHS England has responded in detail to the EHRC explaining why we believe their request is both misjudged and potentially unfair to NHS patients.”
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