May 14, 2013
State sued over 'hermaphrodite' toddler's sex surgery
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) —A South Carolina couple is suing the state to challenge its decision to perform sexual-reassignment surgery on a toddler in its care who was born with both male and female internal sexual genitals.
Mark and Pam Crawford, adoptive parents of the now 8-year-old child, spoke to the media Tuesday morning about the lawsuits filed in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center in federal and state courts.
The Crawfords say the child was born with intersex condition, which means a person is born without sexual anatomy that fits the definition of a male or female.
The suit alleges the South Carolina Department of Social Services decided to perform "dangerous and mutilating surgery" in April, 2006 on the 16-month old to make the child a girl.
Named in the suit are the Department of Social Services, The Medical University of South Carolina, Greenville Health System and several other caregivers.
"Doctors decided to play God," said a SPLC representative Tuesday morning in front of the federal courthouse.
"It's too late for my son, but we want to put other doctors on notice," said Mark Crawford who noted the action was "drastic and permanent."
Pam Crawford said her son was operated on "simply to conform to society."
The Crawfords adopted the child, a few months after the surgery. They say he identifies himself as a boy to his pediatrician. Recently he asked for a boy's haircut and boy's clothing.
The lawsuit states doctors, acting as agents of defendant hospitals, performed the surgery for the purpose of "assigning" the child the female gender despite their own conclusion that the toddler "was a true hermaphrodite but there was no compelling reason that she should either be made male or female."
At birth, the child was identified as a male because of his external genitalia, but shortly after that doctors discovered the baby had "ambiguous genitals" and both male and female internal reproductive structures, according to the lawsuit.
Defendants decided to remove the child's healthy genital tissue and "radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female," the lawsuit states.
The suit filed in federal court alleges the defendants violates the child's right to privacy by deciding to go forward with the surgery. The state suit alleges medical malpractice and gross negligence.
According to the Intersex Society of North America, the condition is seen in approximately one in every 2,000 births.
The couple is suing for damages, but left the dollar amount up to the courts.
Attorneys said this may be the first lawsuit of its kind in the nation.
WISTV asked DSS for comment on the lawsuit, but they have not yet replied.