Ethical Issues in the Care of Transgender Patients

A young man, JT, arrives at the clinic to establish care. The front desk staff is confused because his gender is listed as female in the chart. After several minutes of discussion, your assistant walks out and calls for “Ms T.” When you walk into the room, he is clearly upset with the process.

The Bioethics in Practice column in the latest issue of Ochsner Journal addresses the challenges faced by healthcare providers in the care of transgender patients, a population that faces extensive healthcare disparities.

Transgender describes a person whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth. Gender identity is a person’s inherent sense of being female, male, or an alternative gender. To adequately treat gender nonconforming patients, healthcare providers should recognize that not all patients fit into a binary gender description.

According to the authors, the issue presented above with the patient, JT, could have been avoided with adherence to the ethical principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, benefice, and justice. They conclude that applying these principles in the care of all patients can help eliminate disparities in care.