TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Canadian woman fighting a legal battle with doctors to prevent her 17-year-old transgender child from undergoing a double mastectomy has fuelled an ongoing global debate about whether adolescents should be able to decide to change gender.
The teenager began hormone therapy in July and was due to undergo surgery in Vancouver last week when a judge stopped doctors with a temporary injunction after they were sued by the mother, who cannot be named to protect the child’s identity.
The mother, from Vancouver, said the surgery was “unnecessary” and her child had been influenced by “propaganda” in school, a fad, and “brainwashing” by the media.
“Before she learned it at school, she never questioned her identity,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The case comes amid a sharp rise in adolescents seeking to change gender that has raised questions about parental rights, child autonomy, and the age at which someone can make serious medical decisions.
Some are concerned children are undergoing irreversible treatment without due process that they will later regret, with a court case challenging puberty blocking drugs in Britain and some U.S. states seeking to ban such medical care.
But others, including trans advocates, are concerned about the loss of health care options that they say can be life-saving.
The mother at the heart of the Canadian case said parents should be consulted during decision-making processes for minors, who are defined as under-19s, sparking a heated debate on social media.
According to British Columbia’s Infants Act, minors can receive health care independently of their guardians if they are deemed to have the necessary understanding of the risks and benefits, and it is considered in the child’s best interest.
“I don’t think (minors) are mature enough to make these decisions for themselves,” said the mother, who demanded doctors stop treatment until the courts rule whether her child had the mental and emotional fitness and maturity to give consent.
She has also asked for doctors to hand over all records regarding her child, including medical notes and emails.
The court injunction expires on Nov. 27 after which the mother can apply for an extension.
Morgane Oger, a trans rights activist, said the Canadian provincial government introduced the Infants Act to keep parents out of health decisions taken by teenagers and their doctors and “protect youth from exactly what this mother is doing”.
Oger said the medical protocols for gender-reassignment treatments in British Columbia met the highest international standards.
“We have very rigorous processes in place, we made sure of that because everybody is terrified of regret,” she said.
In a similar case in January, the British Columbia Court of Appeal, the province’s highest court, ruled against a father who attempted to stop his 15-year-old from hormone treatment to transition to male.
That child’s lawyer, barbara findlay - who does not use capitals in her name - said the ruling confirmed that gender-affirming treatments without parental consent were valid under the Infants Act, and she expected the new case to be thrown out.
Reporting by Jack Graham; Editing by Rachel Savage and Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org
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