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Trans patient claims discrimination after hospital requires pregnancy test before surgery

Hospital says care was 'medically appropriate and compassionate'

Highland Hospital
Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York. |

A trans-identified biological female alleges that a hospital in New York discriminated by requiring a pregnancy test even though the patient identifies as a male and says the nurses did not use preferred pronouns.

Trey Lowery, who identifies as a male and underwent bariatric sleeve surgery at Highland Hospital in Rochester in July, is threatening to file a lawsuit after experiencing "discrimination" at the healthcare facility.

Lowery expressed outrage after being asked to take a pregnancy test. As an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Highland Hospital requires all biological females with female reproductive organs to undergo pregnancy testing before any surgery involving anesthesia regardless of whether they identify as female.

Speaking with the local ABC affiliate WHAM, Lowery recalled that a nurse asked for a pregnancy test to be taken before surgery.

"I told her why am I taking a pregnancy test when you guys know that I am a male and I'm fully trans?" Lowery said, adding that the nurse responded by saying, "I'm just doing my job." 

Lowery first went public in an interview with Rochester's City Newspaper, which was published Sept. 1. Maintaining that "they took my pride away," Lowery told the news outlet that "I felt like I didn't want to be here anymore, I wanted to kill myself because I worked so hard to be here like this, and I'm not getting appreciated for who I am."

Additionally, Lowery complained about consistently hearing "she, she, she, she throughout the whole stay of me being there." The day after the surgery, Lowery received a phone call from Highland Hospital's chief executive officer. 

In addition to apologizing for the previous day's events, the Highland CEO reportedly offered Lowery the position of "spokesperson" for trans-identified people at the hospital. Lowery declined the offer and set up a Twitter account at the time of the City Newspaper's article publication. Lowery's Twitter profile reads, "I am a hard-working man and a loving husband who have been hurting in the worst way from Highland Hospital a Rochester New York."

In a statement issued in response to Lowery's criticism, Highland Hospital asserted that it is "committed to providing the highest quality, compassionate, and safe care to all of our patients." Additionally, the hospital vowed that "when issues are brought to our attention, we conduct a thorough review to determine whether staff members took all appropriate steps to care for the patient."

"Upon completion of our review of this patient's case, we believe that his care was medically appropriate and compassionate. However, we will continue to reflect on this individual's experience to see if there is anything we can do better." 

Another trans-identified biological female, Cori Smith, shared similar concerns about Highland Hospital with City Newspaper. Smith was admitted to Highland Hospital in 2014 to treat complications from an egg retrieval procedure. The hospital staff provided Smith with a female wristband.

"I was like, 'You're not giving me a female wristband,'" Smith said. "They literally rolled their eyes, laughed it off, and responded, 'We're not doing that.'" 

The Rochester-based LGBT advocacy group Out Alliance's monthly magazine "Empty Closet" reported in 2018 that an ultrasound showed that Smith had severely swollen ovaries covered in cysts. When Smith requested the removal of the ovaries, the doctor treating the trans-identified female refused to perform the surgery.

Describing the doctor as "outwardly transphobic," Smith filed a lawsuit against the hospital in 2017, seeking $750,000 in damages. While the lawsuit and subsequent appeals were dismissed, Smith maintains that "they just didn't treat me right."

Smith also alleged that hospital staff used the pronouns "it," "she" and "they" as opposed to the preferred pronoun of "he."

Smith accused the doctor of performing an "unnecessary and inappropriate" transvaginal ultrasound in front of eight nurses and hospital staff members. Because the doctor did not cover Smith with a gown during the procedure, nurses were allegedly "gawking and laughing."

"It made me want to die. I couldn't figure out why they were all in there like it was some freak show and I was completely exposed," Smith said, according to Out Alliance. "They looked at me like I was disgusting … and I felt disgusting."

Smith expressed hope that "a hospital never allows for this to go on again," adding, "No medical provider should abuse you, neglect you, embarrass you, or refuse to call you by your correct gender." 

"I hope this situation can help stop some of the issues trans people face in healthcare facilities as well," Smith added. "From smaller missteps of gender pronouns, to much larger discrimination situations like mine — these medical facilities should be aware of the seriousness of the situations at hand. Misgendering can lead to depression, increased anxiety, and can push someone to suicide."

In 2018, the hospital responded to Smith's claims, stating that "appropriate medical treatment" was provided.

"UR Medicine believes that Mr. Smith received appropriate medical treatment at Highland Hospital in response to his need for emergency care in November 2014," the statement reads. "This is based on a thorough review of the medical record by clinical professionals on Highland's patient safety team, a review which included interviews with Mr. Smith's attending physicians and other caregivers."

The Biden Department of Health and Human Services announced this year that it would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in healthcare settings.

In August, associations representing 3,000 healthcare workers sued the Biden administration over an HHS mandate that fear will force them to perform elective gender-transition procedures.

The lawsuit focuses on HHS' interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act barring sex discrimination. The Biden administration interprets sex discrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation even though neither term is expressly included in federal civil rights law. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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