PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Top-rated Boston Children’s Hospital claims to be the first major pediatric hospital with a “gender surgery center” offering services “grounded in scientific evidence” — but a plastic surgeon in Alabama disagrees.
Dr. Patrick Lappert of Birmingham is a former Navy surgeon who performed reconstructive surgeries on service members injured in combat. He is also a deacon at Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church in Birmingham.
In a recent interview with Currents News Anchor Christine Persichette, Dr. Lappert said gender surgery is contrary to “Catholic anthropology.”
“Essentially, what these surgeries are is an act of domination over the body and treating the body as if it’s something separate from the person,” he said. “You’ll often hear proponents of these interventions saying things like the child felt as though they were born in the wrong body.
“Regardless of what you’re proposing is wrong with the child, even if you’re proposing that it could be corrected surgically, it would not be justifiable.”
According to the hospital’s website, its “Gender Multispecialty Service,” or GeMS, has cared for “more than 1,000 families to date.”
“We believe in a gender-affirmative model of care, which supports transgender and gender diverse youth in the gender in which they identify,” the hospital said on the website. “This is a standard of care grounded in scientific evidence, demonstrating its benefits to the health and well-being of transgender and gender diverse youth.”
Dr. Lappert said these claims are “not supported by the evidence.”
“There’s nothing about this surgery that prevents suicide, prevents major depression, anxiety disorders, or any of the rest of it,” he said. “It’s strictly a cosmetic operation aimed at improving a subjective condition, which is never addressed.”
Persichette referred to the hospital’s information that states all genital surgeries are only performed on patients 18 or older.
Dr. Lappert argued that often, only a referral letter is required from a paraprofessional, a licensed social worker, or a psychologist to be eligible for surgery. But, he noted, those making the referrals may not be qualified to offer opinions on surgical procedures.
He said there is no test that such opinions can “prove or disprove that a child is a good candidate for the surgery.
“It is strictly a matter of opinion by the letter writer,” Dr. Lappert said while pointing out that the surgeries and other interventions, like puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormones, have not been scientifically proven to be of any benefit to the child.
The surgeon also noted that the risks are well known and that some of these surgeries are irreversible.
“What kind of complications can you have? Well, you will have lifetime sterility, you will have lifetime dependence on the medical system,” he said. “You have all of the complications that attend large doses of sex hormones, including the risk of heart disease.”
Instead, Dr. Lappert urged families to consider traditional psychological therapies: “Historically, children with gender-identity issues resolve them sometime in adolescence or young adulthood.”