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South Carolina and hospitals sued over child's surgery

Adoptive parents are suing a university, a hospital system and the state over their child's sex-assignment surgery. The suit alleges that the surgery was medically unnecessary. It also claims that the hospital system was negligent by not properly informing the state officials in charge of the child at the time of the risks and consequences of the surgery.

The child was born as a hermaphrodite. A hermaphrodite is a person born with both male and female genitalia. The sex assignment surgery was performed when the child was 16 months old.

The child's parents have brought the suit because the surgery permanently altered their child's body. They allege that the decision on surgery should have been delayed until the child was old enough to identify as one gender or the other. In this situation, the decision was made for the child.

The lawsuit is one of two recently filed suits. They are the first of their kind filed in the U.S. The allegations in the lawsuit are that the Greenville Hospital System did not adequately disclose several risks of the surgery. Some of the risks listed in the suit are; the loss of sexual function, the surgery was not medically necessary and it is irreversible.

When people think of medical malpractice lawsuits, what often comes to mind are the financial outcomes, the settlements and awards. There is, however, a very important role to be played by medical malpractice litigation. It is the opportunity to make changes that might help to improve the safety and equality of medicine. This case is a perfect illustration of such an opportunity. It is a landmark case and has the potential to change the perception and treatment of intersex children in society.

Source: USA Today, "Hospitals, South Carolina sued over child's sex surgery", Tim Smith and David Dykes, May 15, 2013

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