Metro Weekly

Transgender teen’s mother suing hospital for discriminating against her son

Katharine Prescott alleges Rady Children's Hospital misgendered her son after he sought treatment

Photo: Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.
Photo: Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.

The mother of a transgender teenage boy who committed suicide after being released early from a children’s hospital is suing that hospital for discriminating against her son.

Katharine Prescott took her 14-year-old son Kyler to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego in April 2015 for treatment of self-inflicted injuries. She claims that the hospital subsequently misgendered her son and discharged him well before the 72-hour mental screening and observation period — usually required for people who have attempted self-harm — had passed.

According to Prescott, Kyler had been subjected to transphobic harassment by his peers, which led him to self-harm. His mother, concerned, took him to get treatment for those injuries and for suicidal ideation at RCHSD. Even though the hospital was made aware that Kyler was a transgender boy — who had been out since age 13 and whose gender markers had been changed to male — the hospital staff continued to address Kyler as a girl.

Twenty-four hours after his admittance, and after several attempts by Prescott to correct the hospital staff’s behavior, the hospital’s psychiatrist determined that, despite serious mental health issues, Kyler should be released rather than remain for the full 72-hour observation period. Five weeks later, Kyler committed suicide.

“When my son was in despair, I entrusted Rady Children’s Hospital with his safety and wellbeing,” Prescott said in a statement. “Hospitals are supposed to be safe places that help people when they’re in need. Instead of recovering at the hospital, Kyler got worse because staff continued to traumatize him by repeatedly treating him as a girl and ignoring his serious health issues. It’s painful to speak out, but I want to make sure no other parent or child ever has to go through this again.”

Prescott, who is being represented by the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in her lawsuit, alleges that Rady Children’s Hospital violated both federal and California laws by discriminating against Kyler based on his sex (including his gender identity), and based on his disability. Prescott argues that the hospital engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by claiming that it was experienced in treating transgender patients, which was not demonstrated by their treatment of Kyler.

In a press release, Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights pointed out that when transgender children are unable to live consistently with their gender identity, they are more likely to experience depression and attempt self-harm, including suicide. The release also points out that transgender youth already experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation at two to three times the rate of their cisgender peers.

“Deciding to admit your child for inpatient hospital care is one of the most difficult things a parent can face,” Amy Whelan, a senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “Hospitals have a great responsibility to provide care to all children who need it, and Rady utterly failed to do that in this case.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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