Hospital charged with transgender bias

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 31 2002 12:00 AM ET

A woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that although she was bleeding heavily, the University of New Mexico Hospital ignored her for two hours because she is a transsexual. The hospital, in a response to Christine Anders's lawsuit, denied the allegations. Spokeswoman Jennifer Riordan said UNM Hospital cannot comment on pending litigation. Anders, 54, of Albuquerque alleges negligence or medical malpractice and violation of a federal law that governs when and how hospitals may refuse treatment. The law requires hospitals to do a screening exam to determine whether a medical emergency exists and, if so, treat the emergency or transfer the patient to another hospital.

Anders, in the lawsuit filed in federal court, is seeking unspecified damages. "Actually, what I really want from [UNM Hospital] is to make a policy change to make sure they treat transsexuals like anyone else, with dignity and respect," Anders said this week. She alleges that she went to the hospital in June 2000 because of vaginal bleeding. She was rated as a B-level patient, with A being the highest priority and D being the lowest, according to the lawsuit. "They put me in a room and literally forgot about me," Anders said. She said she was not given anything to control the bleeding and was told that the doctor would see her "when he can." After 2-1/2 hours, she drove herself to another emergency room, where she was seen within minutes.

Anders had a sex-change operation in 1975 and has had several reconstructive surgeries since. She retired from General Electric in 1993 due to health problems and said she gets some disability income but cannot afford hospital copayments. Anders said she relies on UNM Hospital for care and that the problems she alleges occurred during the June 2000 visit are consistent with visits there before and since. She said she wrote to hospital administrators twice about her emergency room experience but never received an answer or acknowledgment. Anders, who is representing herself, also said she cannot find an attorney to take her case because she is a transsexual.