Florida’s Politically Appointed Board of Medicine Will Weigh Treatment of Young Transgender People

ladapo and desantis
Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Joseph Ladabo were pushing for a rule banning transgender treatments for young men. (Florida Channel)

On Friday, the Florida Board of Medicine is set to consider a motion by Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration to ban doctors from offering treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty-preventing drugs to transgender youth.

The state health department last week filed a petition asking the board, which regulates physicians, to begin a rule-making process on the contentious issue. The move came as the government’s health care administration agency also plans to prevent Medicaid from covering such treatments for gender dysphoria.

The petition, which is on the agenda of a Broward County Board of Medicine meeting, proposes what is known as a “standard of care” that would prohibit patients under 18 from having sex-reassignment surgery and prevent puberty and “anti-hormonal” therapies. It would also require older patients to sign a consent form and then wait 24 hours before starting such treatments.

[The Board of Medicine consists of 15 members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate, according to the organization’s website.]

The petition, signed by Department of Health General Counsel John Wilson, noted what he said was a “lack of good evidence and certainly no conclusive research to support the medical transition of children to the opposite sex as a treatment for gender dysphoria.”

“Children do not have the cognitive or emotional maturity to understand the consequences of these irreversible invasive procedures,” the petition stated.

But in a July 14 letter to Medicines Chairman David Diamond and other members of the board, a group of professors and doctors from Yale University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Texas Southwestern. The state’s conclusions disagreed About treatments for gender dysphonia. The letter also said setting a standard of care to prevent such treatments would violate legal protections “against discrimination and harm tens of thousands of Florida residents.”

“We are concerned that any action by the[Medical]Board to ban or reduce standard medical care in Florida for individuals with gender dysphoria would set a troubling national precedent,” the letter said.

The federal government defines gender dysphoria clinically as “significant distress that a person may feel when the sex or gender assigned at birth differs from his or her identity.”

But treating transgender people, young people in particular, has become so A hotly debated political issue in Florida and other states. Prominent medical groups and the Biden administration support treatments for gender dysphoria, while many Republicans like DeSantis have argued that the treatments should not be offered to people under 18.

The petition, which was submitted last week to the Board of Medicine, was rooted in the Health Department’s April 20 directive that said treatments such as puberty-preventing drugs and hormone therapy should not be used for transgender youth. Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladabo also issued a statement at the time criticizing federal guidelines that support treatment for transgender youth.

“It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children,” Ladabo said. “Children with gender dysphoria should be supported by the family and seek advice, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach the age of 18.”

The Health Care Administration Agency, which administers most of Medicaid, used the Department of Health’s guidelines as a starting point to propose a rule prohibiting Medicaid coverage for treatments.

In turn, last week’s Department of Health petition cited a report that the Health Care Administration Agency used to support the proposed Medicaid rule.

That report, whose authors included clinicians and researchers who oppose Medicare for gender dysphoria, said Medicaid “has determined that the research supporting sex reassignment therapy is insufficient to demonstrate efficacy and safety.”

But professors and doctors at Yale University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Texas Southwestern University released a report last month that was highly critical of the report used by the Health Care Administration Agency.

“We are concerned that the Florida Health Care Agency has adopted an alleged scientific report that flagrantly violates basic principles of scientific research,” the professors and clinicians wrote. “The report makes false statements and contains egregious errors in relation to science, statistical methods, and medicine.”

In preparation for the Friday meeting, the Medical Council announced 1,113 pages From the documents on its website related to treating gender dysphoria. Besides the petition, those documents include several studies on treatment.

The petition is an initial step in a process that will include developing details of the proposed standards of care rule and taking public comments.

— Jim Saunders, Florida News Service