ACLU Northern California

ACLU Suing St.Joseph Health NorCal for Denying Care to Transgender Man

March 22, 2019 - 10:53 am

(KNX 1070) -- The ACLU along with a California law firm is suing a Catholic hospital for withholding medical care from a transgender patient. 

Oliver Knight, 29, was scheduled to have a hysterectomy in August of 2017 at St. Joesph Hospital in Eureka, California, but minutes prior to the surgery, Knight was informed the surgery would be canceled because the hospital was Catholic. 

“The refusal of St. Joseph to allow a doctor to perform a medically necessary procedure because the patient is transgender is discriminatory,” Jessica Riggin, a partner at Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP wrote in a statement. “This is a hospital that is open to the general public so even though it’s religiously affiliated, it’s illegal for them to turn away someone based on gender identity. Everyone should be able to get the care they need.”

Although the hospital regularly allows hysterectomies for patients who're not transgender, medical records in Knight's case indicate the surgery was canceled based on an "ethics assessment," produced by a reverend without medical training. 

Canceling Knight's surgery was just the beginning of the hospital's alleged mistreatment. 

Hospital staff refused to refer to him with the correct pronoun, telling him he was receiving a "female" surgery, and forcing him to wear a pink hospital gown and not a blue one. 

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of anti-trans bigotry but I didn’t expect it from a hospital,” Knight said. “It seems the hospital doesn’t understand how it feels to be treated inhumanely just because your body parts do not match your soul.”

In addition to representing Knight, the ACLU Foundations of California and the National Health Law Program are launching the All Care Everywhere campaign to make sure all Californians get the health care they need. Catholic hospitals are already the largest health care provider in California and are expanding rapidly. For many, Catholic hospitals are the only option within hundreds of miles. The campaign will gather stories of people denied care and work to ensure Catholic hospitals do not harm more people with their discriminatory practices.