Follow Us

Patients who regret sex-change ops, sue doctors pose legal challenges for health care industry

Mother "repeatedly" told doctors daughter might have same bipolar disorder but was ignored in favor of drugs and surgery. Academic publisher called out for selective retraction.

Published: June 18, 2023 12:17am

Updated: June 19, 2023 4:21am

Healthcare providers may think twice about giving young people puberty blockers or other drug or surgeries, amid growing litigation by former patients who desisted from gender confusion.

Two Californians – Kayla Lovdahl and Chloe Cole – are now suing Kaiser Permanente for "gender affirming" procedures performed on them as minors, alleging "medical negligence" and ignorance of a large body of research on the risks of medicalized transitions.

Preceding them last summer, Oregon's Camille Kiefel sued the mental health professionals whom she alleges rushed and falsified evaluations authorized her, as an adult, for a taxpayer-funded double mastectomy despite red flags in her mental health history.

Kiefel's lawyers told Just the News the suit was dismissed "on a technicality" in January but they are seeking to reopen it.

Congress is closely following the issue as well.

Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw recently offered legislation to exclude children's hospitals that provide gender-affirming treatments to minors from a federal grant program for pediatric medical training.

And he crowed when a Democratic witness at a recent hearing on the program could not "name one study" showing benefits from those procedures.

Concurrently, there appears to be efforts to chill a recent study of "rapid-onset gender dysphoria" (ROGD) in adolescents without a history of gender confusion, marked by "social or peer contagion" in friend groups or online communities.

Lovdahl's suit blames "online transgender influencers" for her confusion.

The condition was first described in 2018 by social scientist Lisa Littman, who became a pariah among gender-affirming academics, left Brown University for falsely characterizing her research as discredited by its publisher and is now president of a gender dysphoria research institute focused on young people.

Lovdahl, who also goes by Layla Jane, "suffered from a complex, multi-faceted array of mental health symptoms as a child and adolescent" that are "compatible with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder," according to her June 15 lawsuit. Her mother is bipolar and "repeatedly" proposed it as a diagnosis to Lovdahl's doctors, who ignored the red flags.

Kaiser's medical team put Lovdahl on puberty blockers and testosterone at 12 and performed a double mastectomy at 13, all after one doctor "determined in a single, 75-minute transition evaluation that Kayla was transgender," the suit argues. 

Their failure to give her "regular psychotherapy for a significant period of time" negated any possibility of informed consent, which at minimum would disclose the frequency of natural desistance from gender confusion, low quality of research in her demographic contrasted with robust evidence that transition "does not resolve psychiatric morbidity, suicide-ality, and suicide rates," and physical impossibility of "sex-reassignment."

She started detransitioning at 17 but "now has deep physical and emotional wounds and severe regrets," according to the suit, which seeks damages including for medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental anguish.  

Lovdahl's legal team includes Republican super lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, known for suing Stanford Medical School on behalf of a physician allegedly punished for his "political activity" challenging COVID-19 policies.

Religious liberty lawyer Charles LiMandri, who won a settlement for a California church that sued the state and county for COVID closures, also is on the team.

The suit points to research literature showing desistance from childhood gender confusion is the default, perhaps 80-90% on average. A 30-year Swedish study found "increased psychiatric  morbidity, increased suicide-ality, and a 19-fold increased rate of completed suicide" for medicalized transitioners – and 40-fold higher for females – compared to the general population.

A New England Journal of Medicine study this year affirmed the Swedish study's findings on suicide. But the authors inexplicably claimed the treatment outcomes – including two suicides – were "positive" and they "dramatically modified" their "hypothesized results" once the study had ended, the suit stat and further suggests "a high risk of research bias."

Mainstream medical associations are supporting a model for gender-confused youth despite "very little study of minor girls" and known higher risk of cardiovascular adverse events from drugs, including "a nearly 5-fold increased risk of myocardial infarction" for females taking testosterone to more closely resemble men, Lovdahl alleges. 

By taking Lupron, widely used off-label as a puberty blocker, Lovdahl developed "various endocrine disorders," the suit says.

The FDA issued a warning last year about such "gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists" based on their "plausible" connection to spontaneous increases in intracranial pressure in girls, but Lupron's known risks go back further.

Kaiser Permanente did not answer queries for its response to the lawsuit.

Studying ROGD increasingly carries reputational risk. Academic publisher Springer Nature formally retracted a paper in its Archives of Sexual Behavior on June 14 for alleged failure to obtain "informed consent" from the parents who answered a coauthor's survey on suspected ROGD in nearly 1,700 children. 

The investigation followed a boycott threat by academics including World Professional Association for Transgender Health President Marci Bowers, whose organization's latest "standards of care" explicitly acknowledge that "susceptibility to social influence" may play a role in some gender confusion.

Coauthor Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, who serves as treasurer of Littman's institute, filed a detailed appeal letter last month when first informed of the pending retraction, which was opposed by more than 2,000 people including a distinguished group of academics, journalists and Olympic medalists.

Bailey noted Springer Nature has published other research "in which the [survey] respondents did not provide explicit permission for 'scholarly research' use – and often apparently did not provide consent for any research purpose at all." 

They include at least six papers based on data from the 2015 United States Transgender Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, which claimed it would only be used "for the benefit of the trans community and the research community."

The publisher responded to Bailey by pledging investigations into those other papers, one of them by Jack Turban, a prominent advocate of the gender-affirming model and critic of the ROGD hypothesis, according to evolutionary biologist Colin Wright in City Journal.

He challenged Springer Nature to demand "documented proof of explicit written consent" for publication from every participant.

After Turban's allies challenged the methodological rigor of his attempted ROGD takedown in the American Academy of Pediatrics' flagship journal, AAP claimed it commissioned a "separate statistical review post-publication" that "concluded that neither an erratum nor a retraction were necessary."

It did not answer when Just the News asked to see the review, and Turban's paper still bears no review note.

"If Springer follows through on its promise, hundreds of authors who chose to publish in Springer’s journals may have their research retracted," including those supporting gender-affirming care, Wright and fellow Manhattan Institute fellow Leor Sapir wrote in The Wall Street Journal

The likeminded Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine estimated the publisher would have to retract tens of thousands of papers published in its 3,000-plus journals if it were to "universally apply" the terms it enforced against Bailey.

Wright, Bailey and Springer Nature did not respond to requests to see the publisher's response to Bailey.

Just the News Spotlight