Two Massachusetts civil courts have ruled that a state law that requires doctors who perform gender reassignment surgery to receive confirmation of the transgender status of the patient before the surgery can be performed.
The cases are part of a growing number of cases in Massachusetts challenging a ban on gender reassigned patients receiving surgery, the law known as the Massachusetts Human Rights Act.
The law prohibits doctors who provide sex reassignment surgeries from performing them in state hospitals.
In a ruling issued on Monday, the Massachusetts Superior Court of Common Pleas said a doctor who performs gender reassignments in Massachusetts can’t deny the transgender patient’s request for surgery, but must confirm that he or she is a man or woman.
“The patient’s need for gender reassigning surgery is not medically necessary and there is no medical necessity for him or her to undergo this surgery,” the court wrote in its opinion.
“A doctor’s refusal to confirm a transgender patient as male or female is not discrimination.”
The state’s highest court ruled that doctors must be able to provide information about transgender patients to prevent them from being “discriminated against.”
A Massachusetts Human Services Commissioner who was involved in the legal battle against the law said it was disappointing that the court ruled against the patient’s right to privacy.
“This is disappointing,” said Susan Stoehr, commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Health.
“I think it’s a big victory for the transgender community, but I think it also gives us an opportunity to see how far we can go with respect to making sure that patients have access to health care.”
The case centers on an insurance policy that allows a transgender person to obtain health insurance.
The patient, whose name is withheld, is transgender.
The case stems from a case that the transgender woman was referred to Stoehres transgender health provider for a gender reassectomy procedure in June.
Stoeher said she asked the patient about her gender identity and asked him if he would agree to do a gender change surgery.
The patient said yes, but said he had been told that his surgery would be covered by the state.
“I had an insurance card that said ‘health insurance,’ but it wasn’t the state health insurance, it was my personal health insurance,” Stoehler said.
Stoeher also told the patient he had no need for the insurance, because she knew that it was not covered by insurance.
“He said he would go to the insurance agent and have a quote,” Stoesher said.
The doctor asked the insurance company to verify the patient was male, but the insurance officer said she couldn’t do that.
The next day, the insurance office sent the patient an invoice for $7,200, but it did not say that Stoeheers gender reassigatin surgery would not be covered.
The state health department said Stoehers health care plan should have had that information.
In March, the case was assigned to a higher court, which is expected to rule on Stoehes appeal.
The state said it plans to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.
The Transgender Law Center, a New England-based LGBT rights group, said in a statement that Stoeshres case is a “victory for the trans community.”
“It’s a win for all of us,” said Mara Keisling, the center’s executive director.
“This decision means that we can have access, not only to the most medically necessary care, but to the privacy of our own bodies.”
The center said the state should allow transgender patients access to insurance to cover gender reassogatin surgeries.
“That’s why we’re asking for the courts to protect this privacy and the right to dignity for trans people,” Keislin said.
“We can only hope that in the years ahead, the courts will rule in favor of this important right.”