Transgender woman refused treatment at Indiana hospital

Erin Vaught went to Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana two weeks ago for medical care for coughing up blood. But what began as a scary health symptom turned into a complete nightmare: not only did hospital staff ridicule her during the two-hour wait to see a doctor, but was thereafter denied treatment because she is transgender. Via the Chicago Tribune:

Vaught said when she, her wife and son went to the ER on July 18, she was entered into the hospital computer system as male despite an ID that stated she was female.

“I pointed out that my ID says female,” Vaught said. “There were two ladies there, and one of them snickered a little bit and covered her mouth. The other got a very annoyed look on her face.”

When she went to the exa- room, 3he was met with stares and insults and was referred to as a “he-she,” an “it,” and a “transvestite.”

Vaught said she was kept waiting for two hours without any treatment before a doctor saw her and said she couldn’t treat her because of her transgender condition.

“I was confused,” Vaught said. “I told them I didn’t know my condition, that’s why I was there. She said ‘No, the transvestite thing.’

Since then, advocacy groups like the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance and Indiana Equality have been filing complaints at the hospital, in which hospital president Michael Haley has only stated that, “should there be any merit to the concerns expressed in the comments, the Hospital will respond in the appropriate manner,” adding that Ball Memorial is “committed to providing care with respect, dignity and courtesy.”

From the sound of it, I think I’d have to strongly contest that. You should too.

Erin is now bring treated at Indianapolis hospital.

Join the Conversation

  • Alison

    Ugh ugh ugh. This is so….there isn’t even a term that describes it. Offensive, disgusting, appalling all sound so inadequate. I mean, besides the fact that Erin being trans very likely had NOTHING whatever to do with her ailment, I just do not understand how people can be so openly and calmly cruel like that. You don’t like trans people? Well you’re an ass, but I can’t demand you feel one way or another…but how about acting like a human being and treating her like one too? I don’t give a damn what you think about someone’s sexuality or gender identity or presentation, keep it the hell to yourself and treat them with the respect and dignity that any human being deserves.

    And on the tiny chance that they did for some reason need to know anything related to her being trans – which, honestly, I can’t come up with one – for the love of crap, there are civil ways to ask! But civility goes out the window when bigots are forced to interact with the targets of their hatred.

  • vexing

    I think that people should link this article whenever some idiot claims that trans women do not suffer discrimination above and beyond that faced by cisgender people. I think that this article should be linked whenever people deny cisgender privilege exists.
    The fact that she had female ID, but was recorded as ‘male’ makes me wonder why we bother going through the costly process of legally changing our gender. Clearly our legal gender status is irrelevant to mainstream society.

    As to the claims that the doctor couldn’t treat her because of the ‘transvestite thing’, that’s absolute bullshit. There is nothing, medically speaking, that would prevent a doctor treating a trans person for coughing blood. Trans people don’t have untreatable, alien biology – and a post-op trans woman is, for all practical intents and purposes, the same as a post-hysterectomy cis woman.

    • brianna-g

      Well, no, there are differences between a transwoman and a post-hysterectomy ciswoman, biologically. First of all, it’s post hysterectomy AND post ophororectomy, because we cannot create ovaries in transwomen yet; second, if they transitioned after puberty, they will have different development and different medical concerns; thirdly, if they have a Y chromosome, they have different diseases they may sucumb to. That’s why if you have a truly unknown ailment, it’s a very bad idea not to mention your genetic sex and which hormones you were exposed to during puberty to a doctor. Of course, coughing up blood is probably not related– but your statement is still incorrect and a dangerous assumption that some transwomen of my acquaintance have made, that has cost them much pain and suffering.

      That said, any doctor can treat any problem of their field that arises in a transwoman, if they know the relevant medical history. A friend of mine went to a urologist in Ireland who had never even met a transwoman after she ripped her stitches flying too soon after her operation in Thailand, and the urologist fixed her up with a quick operation, and that was DIRECTLY relevant to her trans status. So this doctor is completely full of it, besides being cruel and an ass who should lose his license.

  • mishakitty

    Well this is just awful and pisses me off soooo much. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m just upset.

  • Lisa

    Wow. This is beyond depressing. I want to say “I cannot believe doctors of all people would be so cruel” but I can’t. I don’t care what a persons view on transgender issues are, they do not have the right to not treat someone because they are transgender. They should remember the oath they took when they became a doctor, “do no harm.” Guess they think that only applies to cis-gendered people. I am sick to my stomach about this.

  • Equality72521

    It’s so disheartening that people can be this cruel! And in an emergency room of all places…you would think that would be the place above all others where people can see their common humanity…I mean this is really “if you prick us, do we not bleed” in the most literal sense! Normally I don’t go straight for the laterns and pitchforks but I hope anyone on the staff who behaved in such a viscous and unprofessional way is fired on the spot, people with that lack of empathy really have no place being employed to care for others…

  • Orion

    It’s scary that this type of thing can still happen today. You’d hope that doctors would value the welfare of their patients over any prejudices they might have, and that a hospital is one place where people shouldn’t have to worry about being turned away.

  • azinyk

    What the eff? In what possible universe is “transgender” relevant to “coughing up blood”? I can’t even begin to imagine how these people justify denying this woman treatment. Usually I try to see the point of view of Christian fundamentalists, conservatives, etc., but this just makes no sense to me. Even if they consider her a transvestite or a man – how does that stop them from treating a medical condition? “Oh sorry, my scalpel doesn’t work on men who wear lipstick”. Ridiculous.

  • Katie

    This is repulsive. I know that there are still people that exist like that in this country/the world, but sometimes I just can’t believe that people can be so… close-minded (to put it VERY lightly). Why is legal action not taking place? Is it not illegal for a hospital to deny service to individuals based on something like that? No insurance issue, no billing issue, in fact… there is no issue at all in terms of why she should be denied care. Erin should sue the shit out of Ball Memorial Hospital.

    • makomk

      Why do you think she’d be treated any better by the courts than she was by this hospital? Chances are she wouldn’t be; the justice system is often just as prejudiced. The expectation that you can obtain justice from the courts is, sadly, very much a privilieged one.

  • Elizabeth

    I think what I find to be most distressing about this entire situation is the fact that the DOCTOR broke the Hippocratic Oath (copied and pasted below) by not assisting this woman. One of the primary things this doctor vowed to do in medical school was to prevent disease. His refusal to help someone based on his narrow-minded bigotry, in my opinion, should result in severe punishment if not the loss of his license to “practice” medicine.

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

    Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

  • Charlotte

    Perhaps I’m naive, but I genuinely thought that doctors could not do that and would not do that, and that it was one thing to say that ‘I’m not going to do that elective/specific/controversial surgery’ (e.g a sex change, or an abortion, or a stomach-banding when it was not medically appropriate to do so) but to entirely deny basic treatment in the first place? It was a request for basic health care, and it was denied on the basis of an entirely unrelated matter – a hospital’s own prejudice to a patient’s personal life choice, and a choice that really doesn’t have much to do with the health crisis at hand.
    Does this mean that a hospital could refuse to treat a person from a foreign country? Could a hospital refuse treatment on the basis of a patient’s religion? Political beliefs? Tattoos?

    I’d really like the hospital to account for this and either publicly state that they refuse to provide treatment to transgendered people, or announce why there was such a monumental screw-up, if the former isn’t the case.

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  • Leeraloo

    Well, this hospital is near my university (actually, it’s on our campus), and this is the second time this year that I’ve been ashamed to attend school there. The first time was during the “Ball State Ass Grabber/Slapper” incident around March/April. Although I’m on summer break and not on campus, I’m sure the local response to this was probably just as disappointing as the response to that last fiasco. The backwardness and prejudices of my fellow Hoosiers never cease to amaze me. Sorry, world.