The number of procedures, including the removal and construction of external genitalia, increased nearly fourfold from 2000 to 2014, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery.
Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said there is “no conclusive evidence” that these procedures lead to beneficial outcomes for transgender patients.
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“People who go through gender-masking surgeries — you can’t actually change your gender — still experience disproportionate levels of stress, anxiety and suicidality,” Mr. Backholm said. “It calls into question whether rushing into this is actually helpful.”
The study’s authors, who are affiliated with Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, looked at data compiled in the National Inpatient Sample from more than 1,000 hospitals. They identified nearly 38,000 patients who were classified under transsexualism or gender-identity disorder diagnosis codes between 2000 and 2014.
The study found a 3.67-fold increase in the number of patients with those diagnosis codes over the 15-year span, from 3.87 to 14.22 patients per 100,000. Overall, the report found 4,118 sex-reassignment surgeries were performed.
The JAMA study’s authors said expanding insurance coverage is an “important first step in enabling transgender patients to access previously unaffordable, yet necessary, gender-affirming care.”
“Policies banning discrimination based on gender identity among third-party payers are essential to engage transgender patients in care and ensure coverage of these medically necessary procedures,” they said.
They cited a study from 2000, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, that found “even minor surgical alterations in transgender patients can have a profound improvement on patients’ self-esteem and functioning.”
But further research has raised doubts about sex-reassignment surgeries.
In June 2016, the Obama administration’s own Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found there is “not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria.”
“There were conflicting (inconsistent) study results — of the best designed studies, some reported benefits while others reported harms,” the agency said in a proposed decision memo.
And in 2004, Birmingham University’s Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility reviewed more than 100 medical studies of post-operative transgender patients and “found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective,” the Guardian reported.
Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of the just-released “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement,” said there is “no robust science” to support the transgender movement’s claims.
“The best science shows that 80 to 95 percent of children with a gender-identity conflict will grow out of it,” Mr. Anderson said Friday on the Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “The best science shows that 41 percent of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, and that people after they have sex-reassignment surgery — 19 times more likely to die by suicide.”
He said society needs to “hit the pause button” and consider “how we can help people who are suffering.”
“Because obviously if you feel so distressed in your own body that you would contemplate reassigning your sex, you’re suffering,” Mr. Anderson said, “and we need to have a more compassionate and effective response to these people.”