South Carolina parents sue over sex-reassignment surgery

May 14, 2013 at 7:29 PM
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COLUMBIA, S.C., May 14 (UPI) -- A South Carolina couple said Tuesday they're suing doctors and the state's child welfare agency for performing sexual-reassignment surgery on their child.

Pam and Mark Crawford and their attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center have filed a lawsuit in state and federal courts against the Medical University of South Carolina, Greenville Hospital System and the South Carolina Department of Social Services, alleging the sexual-assignment surgery performed when the child was in foster care as a toddler was a violation of the child's 14th Amendment rights.

The child was born with both male and female reproductive organs. Doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make the child a girl. The child, who was later adopted by the couple, is now 8 and identifies as a boy.

"There was no medical reason to perform this surgery, which robbed M.C. not only of his healthy genital tissue but also of the opportunity to decide what should happen to his own body," the legal advocacy organization said Tuesday in a release.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated the child's substantive and procedural due process rights by subjecting M.C. to the unnecessary surgery "without notice or a hearing to determine whether the procedure was in M.C.'s best interest."

It also alleges doctors committed medical malpractice by failing to obtain adequate informed consent before proceeding. The law center says M.C.'s guardians at the time of the surgery were not told about the surgery's risks, including sterilization and reduced sexual function.

"This case is about ensuring the safety of all children who do not have a voice," said Alesdair H. Ittelson, a staff attorney for the law center. "No one advocated for M.C.'s right to be free from unnecessary medical intervention at a time when the state was entrusted with his safety and well-being."

"By performing this needless surgery, the state and the doctors told M.C. that he was not acceptable or lovable the way he was born," Pam Crawford, M.C.'s adoptive mother, said in a statement. "They disfigured him because they could not accept him for who he was -- not because he needed any surgery. M.C. is a charming, enchanting and resilient kid. We will not stop until we get justice for our son."

The attorney said the lawsuit is the first of its kind to be filed in the United States.

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