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Tennessee governor urges investigation of Vanderbilt pediatric transgender clinic

null / Image credit: ADragan/ShutterstockWashington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has called for an investigation into the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after faculty comments on the lucrative nature of transgender surgeries were brought to light.A podcast had also highlighted statements from the school's faculty on the "consequences" faced by conscientious objectors.The Republican governor said in a statement to The Daily Wire that "The 'pediatric transgender clinic' at Vanderbilt University Medical Center raises serious moral, ethical and legal concerns.""We should not allow permanent, life-altering decisions that hurt children or policies that suppress religious liberties, all for the purpose of financial gain," Lee added. "We have to protect Tennessee children, and this warrants a thorough investigation."Matt Walsh, an internet host for the The Daily Wire, shared the recordings of the faculty members' comments in the Sept. 20 ...
null / Image credit: ADragan/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has called for an investigation into the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after faculty comments on the lucrative nature of transgender surgeries were brought to light.

A podcast had also highlighted statements from the school's faculty on the "consequences" faced by conscientious objectors.

The Republican governor said in a statement to The Daily Wire that "The 'pediatric transgender clinic' at Vanderbilt University Medical Center raises serious moral, ethical and legal concerns."

"We should not allow permanent, life-altering decisions that hurt children or policies that suppress religious liberties, all for the purpose of financial gain," Lee added. "We have to protect Tennessee children, and this warrants a thorough investigation."

Matt Walsh, an internet host for the The Daily Wire, shared the recordings of the faculty members' comments in the Sept. 20 edition of his podcast "The Matt Walsh Show."

The comments were made by two faculty members: Dr. Shayne Taylor, a university professor and a physician at the Vanderbilt Clinic for Transgender Health, and Dr. Ellen Clayton, law professor in the center for biomedical ethics and society department. They were recorded in 2018 and in 2019 at the Nashville school's Medicine Grand Rounds lecture, a weekly faculty lecture series.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center responded to the report with a statement on Wednesday saying the videos in Walsh's report are misrepresentative of the center's care for transgender patients.

Transgender surgeries: 'huge money-makers'

A video of Taylor's 2018 lecture — which Walsh says is the same year that the transgender clinic opened — shows her speaking 2016 about cost estimates for transgender surgeries. 

"These surgeries make a lot of money," Taylor said in the video. "So female-to-male chest reconstruction can bring in $40,000. A patient just on routine hormone treatment who I'm only seeing a few times a year can bring in several thousand dollars. ... It actually makes money for the hospital."

Citing the Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, which performs transgender surgeries, Taylor said that vaginoplasty surgeries — performed on males seeking to transition into women — are priced at $20,000. 

Taylor also added that the price tag doesn't include hospital stay costs, post-operation costs, anesthesia, or operating room costs.

"So I would think that this would have to be a gross underestimate," she said. "I think that's just like the surgeon's piece of it, which anybody who's ever been in a hospital knows that that's like 10% of it."

Speaking of female-to-male "bottom surgeries," Taylor called them "huge money makers." 

Phalloplasty surgeries cost up to $100,000, Taylor said on the recording.

Women who undergo phalloplasty must first have a hysterectomy, and the vagina may also be removed. On average, it takes a patient 12 to 18 months to heal from a phalloplasty. 

Citing Vanderbilt's own transgender surgeon, Taylor said that there are clinics that are financially supported solely from phalloplasty surgeries.

"And that is like a fraction of the surgeries that they're doing," she said. "These surgeries are labor intensive, they require a lot of follow-ups, they require a lot of OR [operating room] time, and they make money. They make money for the hospital."

Conscientious objection 'not without consequences'

Speaking to staff at the medical center, Clayton, the law professor, said at a Medicine Grand Rounds Lecture on Nov. 22, 2019, "If you are going to assert conscientious objection [to transgender surgeries], you have to realize that that is problematic."

She added that the university may have to "accommodate" the religious beliefs of a staff member who conscientiously objects, but said that "I just want you to take home that saying that you're not going to do something because of your religious beliefs is not without consequences."

"And it should not be without consequences," she added. "And I just want to put that out there. If you don't want to do this kind of work, don't work at Vanderbilt."

Medical center issues statement

In response to Walsh's exposé, the hospital issued a statement saying that the comments were not reflective of its policies.

"Vanderbilt University Medical Center is now the subject of social media posts and a video that misrepresent facts about the care the Medical Center provides to transgender patients," the statement said.

"VUMC began its Transgender Health Clinic because transgender individuals are a high-risk population for mental and physical health issues and have been consistently underserved by the U.S. health system," the statement said. 

The statement said the medical center is "family-centered" when dealing with adolescents, and abides by the law.

"VUMC requires parental consent to treat a minor patient who is to be seen for issues related to transgender care, and never refuses parental involvement in the care of transgender youth who are under age 18," the statement said.

"Our policies allow employees to decline to participate in care they find morally objectionable, and do not permit discrimination against employees who choose to do so," the statement said. "This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender persons."

Walsh tweeted on Wednesday that he had a meeting with Tennessee state representative William Lamberth and state senator Jack Johnson, both Republicans, to work on legislation that will "shut down Vanderbilt's child gender transition program and ban the practice in the state."

CNA reporter Edie Heipel contributed to this story.

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