Catholic hospital sued for refusing breast implants to “transgendered”

Seton Medical Center in Daly City, CA
Seton Medical Center in Daly City, CA


A Catholic-run hospital faces a lawsuit for refusing breast augmentation surgery to a transgendered person, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Charlene Hastings, a 57-year-old San Franciscan, inquired about the surgery at Seton Medical Center.  According to Hastings, a surgical coordinator refused to allow the surgery.  "She was saying, 'It's not God's will,' " Hastings said. "I couldn't believe it. It's a blatant case of discrimination."

Hastings, who said he was raised Catholic, filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Court on December 21.

Hastings has already had major sex-change surgery to make his body resemble a woman’s.  He chose a plastic surgeon with privileges at Seton to perform the augmentation surgery.  According to Hastings, the surgeon, Dr. Leonard Gray, told him that Seton no longer allowed such operations to be performed on transgendered patients.

Seton Medical Center was previously owned by a large hospital conglomerate, Catholic Healthcare West, during which time it apparently allowed the surgery to transgender people.  The Daughters of Charity Health System took ownership of the hospital in 2002, and halted the surgeries in 2006 after learning they were taking place.

Kristina Wertz, legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, claimed Seton and other area hospitals put up “significant barriers” to care.  Wertz believed the hospital’s policy violates the Unruh Act, a state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  “There's simply no religious exemption in the Unruh Act," Wertz said. "We're talking about a type of care that's OK for one class but not another.”

Elizabeth Nikels, vice president of communications for Daughters of Charity, told the Mercury News that the surgical coordinator was following hospital policy in refusing Hastings' surgery.

"Seton Medical Center provides medically necessary services to all individuals," Nikels said in a prepared statement. "However, the hospital does not perform surgical procedures contrary to Catholic teaching; for example, abortion, direct euthanasia, transgender surgery or any of its related components."

When contacted by Catholic News Agency for further comment, Nikels said she could not speak about ongoing litigation.

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