By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com May 14 2013 2:20 PM ET
A South Carolina hospital is being sued for performing an irreversible and medically unnecessary surgery on a baby, reportedly aiming to change the child's intersex genitalia, the child's attorneys claim.
The 16-month-old child, identified as M.C., was born with an intersex condition, where the child's reproductive or sexual anatomy does not fit typical male or female classification. Most children with these conditions eventually develop as male or female, but M.C.'s phallus was removed in an attempt to make the child a girl, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Informed Choice.
M.C., now age 8, has shown signs of developing a male gender and identifies as a boy.
The SPLC, Advocates for Informed Choice, and pro bono counsel for the private law firms of Janet, Jenner & Suggs and Steptoe & Johnson LLP filed a lawsuit Tuesday on the child's behalf against the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Greenville Hospital System, Medical University of South Carolina and individual employees involved with the surgery.
At the time of the surgery, M.C. was under the state's care but living with guardians. The lawsuit charges that the doctors performed medical malpractice by failing to provide adequate information before proceeding with the surgery. M.C.'s guardians reportedly were not made aware of the significant risks of the surgery or the alternative of not having surgery at all. Currently, doctors and advocates recommend that intersex children be assigned a gender at birth, but are encouraged to hold off on any unnecessary surgery until they are old enough to self-identify with a gender.
“God made M.C. the way he is, but with one unnecessary surgery, the state of South Carolina irreparably injured him,” said Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice. “The state made a decision that robbed him of his freedom to decide what should happen to his own body. Sadly, no one advocated for M.C.’s rights when this decision was made. It is time the state and all those involved be held accountable.”