After an unprecedented decision by the state’s medical board, Florida has essentially prohibited pharmaceuticals and surgery for new adolescents seeking gender changes.
Florida becomes one of many states to limit so-called gender-affirming treatment for teenagers, but the first to do so through its Board of Medicine, whose 14 members were nominated by Governor Ron DeSantis. The tactic avoided the Republican-controlled State Legislature, which had repeatedly refused to consider a measure to ban such treatment.
Friday, the board adopted a new standard of care that prohibits physicians from prescribing puberty blockers and hormones or performing procedures on transgender patients until they reach the age of 18. There will be exceptions for children currently undergoing the therapy.
Friday, the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine decided to limit treatment for new patients, but made an exemption for minors participating in clinical trials. Doctors who disregard the guidelines risk having their licences revoked.
Dr. David A. Diamond, a radiation oncologist and chairman of the board, said on Friday that there is an urgent need for more high-quality clinical research.
The decision came after months of passionate debate, including a dramatic and at times fiercely divisive public hearing in Orlando last week that included testimony from physicians, parents of transgender children, and individuals who have grown to regret their transformations.
And it comes only four days before the completion of the contest for governor in the state and as conservatives have made gender-related medical treatment for teenagers a central issue on the national political scene. In a recent debate, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican generally considered to have presidential aspirations, said that such therapies would not be permitted in Florida. Dr. Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general, personally urged members of the medical board to create the new criteria prior to the board’s decision.
This year, Florida joined at least eight other states in prohibiting Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming treatment, impacting thousands of low-income individuals and children.
Typical treatments for teenagers include puberty blockers, which halt growth, followed often by testosterone or oestrogen to induce secondary sex characteristics that better match transgender adolescents’ body with their perception of gender. A modest but rising percentage of teenage patients have surgery, most often breast removal. All therapies need parental agreement and clearance from doctors.
Important medical organisations in the United States, including as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have criticised state prohibitions and insurance limits on such treatment as harmful political intrusions into established medical practise. Transgender teenagers suffer from high rates of depression and anxiety, and preliminary research indicates that such medical procedures may help alleviate body-related suffering and enhance the adolescents’ well-being.
However, the rapidly increasing number of teenagers seeking these therapies and the dearth of information on their long-term results have also caused alarm among several physicians throughout the globe. During last week’s public meeting, board members often referred to recent developments in Europe, where several governments have recently restricted the eligibility of teenagers to obtain puberty blockers and hormones.
In contrast, the United States has adopted an all-or-nothing policy. Arkansas and Alabama have approved legislation prohibiting physicians from providing gender-related treatment to children. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, has instructed the state’s child welfare department to investigate transgender children’s parents on suspicion of child abuse.
The Board of Medicine and the Osteopathic Board were scheduled to vote on the identical amendment to the standard of care on Friday, with the exception of clinical research. However, in an unexpected decision, the medical board revoked the exemption for study. Consequently, there will be two standards in the state: one for medical physicians and one for osteopathic doctors, barring any revisions in the future.
The modifications to the new criteria will take effect after a 21-day period for public discussion. Despite the fact that the osteopathic board granted an exemption for children participating in clinical trials, no such studies have been initiated in Florida.