Trans patients sue hospital for giving their medical records to transphobic attorney general
Author: Daniel Villarreal
Two transgender patients of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, Tennessee are suing the hospital for giving their personal medical records to the state’s Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti without first redacting their personally identifying information.
This action, the lawsuit states, violated patient privacy and consumer protection laws and caused emotional distress since Tennessee’s government officials have pursued transphobic policies. This year, state officials have banned gender-affirming care for minors and sought out-of-state medical records to enforce that ban.
The hospital handed over 100 patients’ records to Skrmetti’s office, including patients who weren’t receiving gender-affirming care. VUMC spokesperson John Howser said that the law required the hospital to give patient records to the attorney general and that it’s a common practice in government billing probes and audits, the Associated Press reported.
However, VUMC waited months before informing patients that their records had been given to Skrmetti. He also requested other trans-related hospital information, including the names of any patients who had made at least one visit to the hospital’s trans clinic and the names of volunteers in the hospital’s Trans Buddy initiative, which provides care assistance and emotional support for patients.
“[Trans patients are] terrified for their physical safety, have had significant anxiety and distress that has impacted their ability to work, has caused them to increase home security measures, and drop out of activities in which they normally would participate,” the lawsuit states.
Last October, transphobes protested the hospital at a “Rally to End Child Mutilation.” White supremacists and Proud Boys joined other far-right politicians, pundits, and protestors at the rally. Some of the protestors held signs supporting death and violence against doctors who provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth.
The rally, held at the city’s War Memorial Plaza on October 21, was organized by conservative podcaster and transphobe Matt Walsh. Walsh spoke at the event alongside Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), state lawmakers like state Sen. Jack Johnson (R) and state Rep. William Lamberth (R), former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, a lawyer from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, and other anti-trans activists. An estimated 1,500 to 3,000 people attended, according to varying media reports.
At the rally, one protester held a sign that said, “Doctors who mutilate children should be killed.” Another held a sign that said, “Mutilate the mutilators.” Other signs declared “homo sex is sin” and that “hellfire awaits” gay people. One of several Proud Boys flashed a white nationalist hand signal during the event, Media Matters reported.
Walsh planned the rally after launching a successful campaign targeting VUMC for offering gender-affirming care. Walsh falsely claimed that VUMC doctors “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors” and posted a video clip showing VUMC workers discussing their offering of “top surgeries” for 16- and 17-year-old patients who have parental permission. The hospital has only conducted five such procedures since its clinic opened in 2018.
Though such surgeries have very low rates of regret, VUMC announced in early October that it would stop all gender-affirming procedures on minors for several months while reassessing its policies. It did this after 62 Republican state representatives wrote a letter asking VUMC to stop. VUMC noted that it had performed very few gender-affirming surgeries and had never conducted genital surgeries on minors.
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Author: Daniel Villarreal