Discrimination in healthcare is running rampant, thanks to the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.
When the Department of Health and Human Services’ new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” was established on January 18 to protect doctors who, for a reason of religious conviction refused to treat patients, some were shocked or even offended at the thought that a doctor ever would.
“Now, I am a religious doctor. My faith is very important to me, and it gives me the strength to tend to very sick people in the ICU,” wrote Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa. “At the same time, I can honestly say that there has never come a time when being a doctor has conflicted with my convictions. Though I am a religious doctor, I would never refuse to treat someone. Never.”
But a new article in Vice illustrates how startlingly common it is for medical professionals to disagree with Hassaballa.
Vice told a story of a young transman being denied the testosterone injections that are necessary for his transition and the attending nurse practitioner making comments like “What kind of a doctor would prescribe this to a girl?”
While the anecdote in Vice is part of a pattern of religious-based discrimination in the medical profession, transgender patients are especially vulnerable. According to a 2007 Center for American Progress survey nearly 30 percent of transgender respondents had faced refusal for treatment from medical professionals, compared to just eight percent of non-straight respondents. A similar number of transgender respondents reported unwanted physical contact from their healthcare provider.
Nearly one-fourth of transgender people abstain from essential medical care out of fear of the mistreatment of medical professionals.
That’s almost a quarter of one minority group in America — roughly 1.4 million according to 2016 data — who is more likely to go untreated, to be sick and to potentially die because they are now subject to legal discrimination by the healthcare community.
And President Trump’s policy extends even more protection to those who would refuse or abuse transgender patients.
It is no exaggeration to say that because of the HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, transgender patients will die.
Doctors have stressed to legislators before that refusal to treat a patient is not an acceptable expression of religious freedom. Hassaballa has tried to stress the same to his colleagues. San Francisco, long the capitol of the LBGT movement, has pledged to protect transgender patients. But for the most part, these pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.
By expanding religious protections to allow doctors refuse and abuse patients who they personally dislike, it becomes a justification to allow those people to die. So for a growing number of transgender people, the health care option they are presented with is a deeply religious one:
Pray they don’t get sick.
Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.