Catholic hospitals have long been able to refuse to perform abortions on religious grounds. But can they deny a transgender patients request for an elective surgery? Thats the question at the heart of a new lawsuit pitting religious doctrine against patient rights.
A transgender woman is suing Seton Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in Daly City, Calif., for discrimination after the hospital allegedly refused to schedule her breast augmentation surgery because she had had a sex-change operation.
Charlene Hastings, 57, says that when she sought the procedure in October 2006, she was told it was denied by Seton officials because God made you a man, according to the complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Dec. 21. She says she suffered embarrassment and emotional anguish as a result. Hastings had already had one sex-change operation and had undergone extensive evaluations prior to deciding to get breast implants. Her plastic surgeon had agreed to perform the operation at Seton, according to the complaint.
Seton provides medically necessary care to everyone, says Elizabeth Nikels, spokeswoman for Daughters for Charity Health System in Los Altos Hills, Calif., which owns Seton. However the hospital does not perform surgical procedures contrary to Catholic teaching, such as abortion, euthanasia, transgender surgery or any of its related components.