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South Carolina

Parents sue S.C. hospital over child’s gender assignment surgery

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A couple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of South Carolina for what they say was an unnecessary sexual assignment surgery performed on a toddler they later adopted.

Lawyers for Pam and Mark Crawford said Tuesday they were suing the Department of Social Services for having irreversible surgery performed on a 16-month-old child they eventually adopted and raised as a girl.

File photo

The child was born in 2004 with both male and female genitalia and placed in state custody after the termination of parental rights, according court papers. At the age of 16 months, doctors removed the child’s male genitalia, leaving the toddler with female parts, according to court papers.

“The doctors knew that sex assignment surgeries on infants … poses a significant risk of imposing a gender that is ultimately rejected by the patient,” attorneys claim in the suit.

Instead, the lawyers argue, the optional surgery should ha ve been delayed until the child was older and self-identified as male or female.

“That was a permanent, irreversible decision that was not theirs to make,” attorney Ken Suggs said Tuesday of the lawsuits, which he said are the first of their kind in the United States.

At the time of adoption, the Crawfords said they knew their child was born with ambiguous genitalia and raised the child as a girl starting in 2006. But about a year ago, the Crawfords say their now-8-year-old child told them he wanted to be raised as a boy. They supported the decision, allowing him to cut his hair short and wear boys’ clothes.

The Crawfords said their family is adjusting, their son is happy and has the support of his community and school. But they chose to sue to keep other families from going through similar struggles.

The state lawsuit accuses the Medical University of South Carolina – where the surgery was performed – and Greenville Hospital – where the child was born – of negligence medical malpractice for not getting the patient’s informed consent before surgery and failing to warn of potential problems resulting from it.

Spokeswomen for the hospitals did not immediately comment on the suit and the Department of Social Services declined to comment.

The child is healthy, but the Crawfords’ lawyers say there are medical issues that can result from the surgery, including sterilization or the loss of sexual function.

“These doctors wanted to play God,” said Alesdair Ittelson, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which helped bring the lawsuit. About one in every 2,000 children is born “intersex,” or with ambiguous genitalia, according to Anne Tamar-Mattis, an attorney with Advocates for Informed Choice, a group that supports intersex children.

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39 more reader comments:

  1. they used to do this years ago..the doctors decided after the baby was born which gender the baby was to be..i thought they got that ended.. but apparently not..

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:14pm
  2. sue the government not the doctors

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:17pm
  3. I agree with the family, but don’t agree they have a right to sue. They have no standing in the case, as they did not have custody of the child at the time of the operation.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:18pm
  4. Both should be sued. First the Department of Social Services for seeking out & authorizing the surgery then the surgeons for performing it.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:19pm
  5. Sue those doctors and the hospital into bankruptcy.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:21pm
  6. Unless they’re suing on behalf of the child.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:22pm
  7. The hospital would not be at fault, it would be State, who made the decision. If that’s the policy of the state, then the doctors were at no fault.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:25pm
  8. It is SC after all,..second in backwardness to Mississippi.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:29pm
  9. Stop cutting up peoples genitals through routine infant circumcision and a lot of these cases would never happen. Could you imagine cutting of infant girls clitoral hood and sewing up the labia… oh wait…!?

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:34pm
  10. Thanks for screwing over social workers… NOT!

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:35pm
  11. If the child self identified as female, they wouldn’t have done anything and this would never have popped into their minds. They don’t have a problem with the hospital performing these procedures. They found a way to make a buck.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:39pm
  12. This childs healthy was not in danger to begins with so no surgery was ever needed. Ignorance fueled this decision pure ignorance.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:42pm
  13. Social Workers act as lesions to the family… stop throwing them under the bus… they are the grassroots workers that make LGBTQ rights possible! Shame on you Michele, it was the familys ignorance.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:42pm
  14. A majority of male boys have their penis cut down by doctors who want to make a buck. A major amount of the reason why infant, toddlers and young children have re-assignment surgery is due to circumcision on boys. Stop chopping off peoples sex organs. Might as well cut off girls breasts if they are prone to breast cancer if that is the case.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:45pm
  15. doctors should stop shaming parents into mutilating their babies who are born intersex

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:46pm
  16. Blame the generals for the orders, not the soldiers; as the saying goes.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:47pm
  17. They mutilate boys every minute through cutting off the most sensitive part of the penis. Its all about the $$$!

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:48pm
  18. what.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:49pm
  19. Choppy Choppy!

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:49pm
  20. forcing a child to be a boy or a girl when the child is born intersex is NOT the same

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:49pm
  21. If I read the story correctly the surgery was performed while the child was in the states custody before being adopted. Social workers, surgeons are just as able to be ignorant about this issue as the rest of society. The surgery was done for the wrong reason as the child was healthy. Now he has to live with an irreversible surgery and because of the decisions made out of ignorance. There was NOTHING wrong with him. NOTHING.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:53pm
  22. I have watched a couple documentaries concerning intersex people and several of them had surgery, with parental permission, that resulted in loss of sexual feeling. Unless the health/life of the infant/child is in danger no surgery should be performed. Too often these surgeries are performed so that the doctor can write and publish a paper on their work.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:57pm
  23. When a surgeon says to do something and you are a social worker you have to follow the MD… by the time a social worker could have done anything they chopped away and its on to the next butchering!

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:58pm
  24. As long as the money, if any, goes into a fund for the child.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:59pm
  25. A botched circumcision = INTERSEX.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:00pm
  26. What’s the state law on such situations? Did the state violate any policies when opting for the surgery? If not, then there was no wrong doing and the law suit should be thrown out.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:01pm
  27. It was most likely some male that made up the law, easier to make a clam than a sausage.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:03pm
  28. Its a damn shame…

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:07pm
  29. case should be thrown out…. tired of people looking for a way to make the easy money…

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:07pm
  30. There is much more about this case in many other forms of media. Yes, a circumcision leading to severe injury has lead to a sad story here. The boy who ended up having a surgery due to the ignorance of others will also have the same risks in his life. It would have been avoided if they would have left him alone.
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:07pm
  31. @Caroline..I agree, circumcision is mutilation, but it isn’t the same as having an organ completely removed. Both are horrible…but not actually the same. I do believe it is all about the money.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:11pm
  32. My sons pediatrician was ecstatic that we chose against circumcision cause really there’s no valid reason for it. Even if he “don’t look like Daddy” I’m still to this day so happy we left his penis uncircumcised.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:15pm
  33. I think the main difference is that, with circumcision, it is mainstream…and most boys don’t feel like they are outcasts because they look and feel like most other boys. Removing an entire penis, from a being that feels like a boy, will surely send a child into depression…as would removing the female parts of a being that is meant to be a girl. At least circumcision, as messed up and brutal as it is, doesn’t have the same stigmata.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:18pm
  34. doctors shaming parents into “picking a sex” is outrageous. What is it about “do no harm” those idiot doctors don’t get

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:24pm
  35. This is where our society falls short. We have birth certificats that don’t have the option of unknown or other. Just because these situations are rare doesn’t mean they don’t happen, and just because the children are uncommon doesn’t mean they don’t count.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:27pm
  36. and who is surprised that it is SC where it happened.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:44pm
  37. this is appalling

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 6:51pm
  38. This child had every right to choose either sex for its needs. Shame on corporate medicine for making a decision they had no right to make!

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 6:52pm
  39. What…Did the doctor come to their house and cut the kids thing off while he was sleeping?
    The parents raised the child as a girl.
    The parents brought the child to the doctor.
    The parents OK’d the surgery…
    Buyers remorse.
    In the end, it was a decision that should have been made by the kid…around their 18th birthday.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 9:17pm