This Wasn’t a Split-Second Decision”: An Empirical Ethical Analysis of Transgender Youth Capacity, Rights, and Authority to Consent to Hormone Therapy
Open Access. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (2021). Published online: 27 January 2021
Beth A. Clark & Alice Virani
Abstract: Inherent in providing healthcare for youth lie tensions among best interests, decision-making capacity, rights, and legal authority. Transgender (trans) youth experience barriers to needed gender-affirming care, often rooted in ethical and legal issues, such as healthcare provider concerns regarding youth capacity and rights to consent to hormone therapy. Even when decision-making capacity is present, youth may lack the legal authority to give consent. The aims of this paper are therefore to provide an empirical analysis of minor trans youth capacity to consent to hormone therapy and to address the normative question of whether there is ethical justification for granting trans youth the authority to consent to this care. Through qualitative content analysis of interviews with trans youth, parents, and healthcare providers, we found that trans youth demonstrated the understandings and abilities characteristic of the capacity to consent to hormone therapy and that they did consent to hormone therapy with positive outcomes. Employing deontological and consequentialist reasoning and drawing on a foundation of empirical evidence, human rights, and best interests we conclude that granting trans youth with decisional capacity both the right and the legal authority to consent to hormone therapy via the informed consent model of care is ethically justified.
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