FL medical board poised to extend transgender care for minors for six months

New ban on such care doesn’t apply to youth already undergoing it

By: - June 2, 2023 10:03 am

Members of the audience at the Westshore Grand Hotel in Tampa for a state medical committee meeting on transgender care for minors on June 1, 2023 (Photo credit: Mitch Perry)

With a deadline looming, a state medical licensing panel has agreed to recommend an emergency rule allowing transgender minors who are taking puberty blockers or hormone therapy to continue to do so for an additional six months.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation two weeks ago that bars doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment to minors, but the measure included an exception for minors who have already started treatment.

That exception required the Florida Board of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine’s Joint Rules and Legislative Committee to spell out standards for that care, and it took up the matter during a raucous meeting in Tampa on Thursday afternoon.

The law requires that the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine adopt emergency rules within 60 days of the law’s effective date setting standards of practice under which a patient under 18 may continue to be treated with a prescription for gender-affirming care. DeSantis signed the law on May 17, meaning that the boards must produce such an “informed consent” form within the next six weeks.

Because those forms don’t exist right now, transgender patients cannot access care, Brevard County resident Rene Davis told the committee members.

“There are thousands of individuals right here in Florida who do not have access to care that are waiting for you to figure out this form.”

Samira Burnside, too, urged the board to create the informed consent form as quickly as possible, saying people going through transgender care right now need that document to continue their transition.

“What’s happening here is that you have cut off many people completely cold turkey,” she said. “We need these forms with expediency.”

The board agreed that the form must include sign-offs for the main physician, a psychologist or psychiatrist, the parents or legal guardians of the patient, and the patient, and that they would have up to six months to produce those signatures to verify their medical diagnosis.

Emotional meeting

More than 100 members of the public — many from the transgender community — gathered at the Westshore Grand Hotel for the nearly three-hour meeting. The board insisted they direct remarks only toward the informed consent form, since the underlying measure is now actually law.

But emotions remain raw within the transgender community and their allies in Florida, and several public speakers hurled insults at the medical board and disparaged the legislation (SB 254) passed this spring by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

“This is a political attack, a political agenda, one that is based off right-wing Christian fundamentalism, that’s driving a racist, sexist, anti-trans, anti-body autonomy conduct,” said Davis, the first member of the public to address the medical board.

People in the audience expressed anger when a member of the board, Jacksonville pediatrician Patrick Hunter, suggested the consent form include information about “the negative impact on the brain” from using puberty blockers. “There is some evidence that it lowers IQ,” he said, evoking gasps in the audience, with one member shouting, “Excuse me?”

Several members of the public disagreed with the six-month deadline, saying that with a shortage of doctors providing gender-affirming care in Florida, the deadline should be extended. Some medical board members mentioned going to 12 months, while others said three months might be sufficient.

Florida is one of 20 states that have passed laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for individuals up to 18 years of age, according to the Human Rights Campaign (although court injunctions are ensuring continued access to care in three of those states: Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas).

The committee must also produce an informed consent form for the treatment of gender dysphoria for adults but did not address that on Thursday.

Board members said they intend to meet again next month, probably in South Florida.

The full Florida Board of Medicine is meeting today in Tampa, where it is expected to pass the emergency rule.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.