State Doctor Regulators Weigh Transgender Care for Children, Teenagers

Currently doctors treating gender dysphoria in minors can prescribe puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and sex reassignment surgery. The DeSantis administration wants that to stop.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Florida Board of Medicine began a controversial rule-making process for licensed doctors practicing in the state. Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration submitted a “standard of care” petition to prohibit Florida doctors from prescribing certain treatments for transgender people under 18 years old.

Currently, doctors treating gender dysphoria can prescribe puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and sex reassignment surgery. The federal government describes gender dysphoria as someone with “severe distress” because they were assigned a gender or sex at birth different from what they currently identify as. The Florida Surgeon General is advocating for a rule which would prevent doctors from using those treatments for minors.

It was a chaotic ending to a normally quiet Board of Medicine meeting. Earlier in the day, opposing groups held press conferences, held signs, and advocated for their position.

Victor Mateo spoke against the state’s petition, worrying about depression and suicide in teenagers. They argue these treatments allow young Floridians to successfully match their body to their gender identity.

“What we need to do is we need to look out for the health of these kids and that’s not only the physical health but the mental health, too,” Mateo said.

Supporters of the state’s actions argue children are not yet developed and should not make such life-changing decisions.

“If they wish to treat their bodies in this way, that is their prerogative once they are an adult,” Mara Sours said.

This action mirrors other actions from the DeSantis administration in the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo presented the petition and argued the science behind the long-term effects of puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery is not yet settled. In some cases, people regret their earlier decisions and begin to “de-transition” back.

Ladapo suggests therapy or counseling as proper treatments instead.

“In an ideal world, people wouldn’t have to deal with challenging medical conditions which there isn’t a clear answer, treatment, or solution. But unfortunately, that’s not the situation we have,” Ladapo said.

Many doctors who prescribe the current treatment spoke against the state’s position. The American Academy of Pediatrics holds a position counter to the state except on genital surgeries which they recommend for patients older than 18. Dr. Michael Haller from the University of Florida told NBC 6 that transgender people would still exist if this rule is approved — it will only make successful transitions more difficult.

 “Likely worsening their gender dysphoria, potentially having worse mental health issues. That would preclude them from being good members of society,” Dr. Haller said.

The Board will begin the rulemaking process which could take weeks or months. For context, doctors here told NBC 6 there are likely a few thousand people in the state who currently or will soon need blockers, therapies, or surgeries.

The board regulates medical doctors. If this rule eventually passes and a doctor continues to offer these treatments, they could lose their medical license.

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