Med Groups Urge Feds to Protect Physicians From Anti-Trans Violence

Donavyn Coffey

October 03, 2022

Several leading medical groups Monday called on US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate and prosecute those responsible for a recent spate of threats and attacks against hospitals and physicians who are providing gender-affirming care.

In an October 3 letter, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the Children's Hospital Association detailed the risk posed by these threats to physicians, patients, and the federally protected right to healthcare.

The letter comes during a campaign of intimidation and misinformation that has disrupted gender-related care in Seattle, Akron, Nashville, and Boston in the past few weeks. Hospitals across the country and their ambulatory sites have been forced to substantially increase protection, and "some providers have needed 24/7 security," according to the letter.

Not only do the threats bully physicians providing gender-affirming care and the patients who receive that care, but "they have also disrupted many other services to families seeking care," the letter claims.

According to STAT, many hospitals that provide gender-affirming care have responded to the threats by removing information about the treatment from their websites.

At one hospital, a new mother was separated from her preterm infant because the facility's neonatal intensive care unit was locked down as the result of a bomb threat. (It's not clear whether that incident is the same as a similar threat that led to the arrest of a 37-year-old Massachusetts woman, who is facing criminal charges in the episode.)

"The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation" by high-profile social media users, according to the letter. The medical organizations have also called on major tech companies, including TikTok, Twitter, and Meta, to do more to prevent the coordination of disinformation campaigns and violence against healthcare providers and patients.

"We now urge your office to take swift action to investigate and prosecute all organizations, individuals, and entities responsible," the letter states.

"We cannot stand by as threats of violence against our members and their patients proliferate with little consequence. We call on the Department of Justice to investigate these attacks and social media platforms to reduce the spread of the misinformation enabling them," AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, said in a press release.

In addition to physical threats at their workplace, providers also face threats on their personal social media accounts and harassment via phone and email. The letter notes that these unchecked attacks are coming after healthcare workers spent 3 years working on the front lines of a pandemic.

"Individuals in all workplaces have the right to a safe environment, out of harm's way and free of intimidation or reprisal," AMA President Jack Resneck, Jr, MD, said in a statement. "The AMA will continue to work with federal, state and local law enforcement officials to develop and implement strategies that protect hard-working, law-abiding physicians and other health care workers from senseless acts of violence, abuse and intimidation."

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Donavyn Coffey is a Kentucky-based journalist reporting on healthcare, the environment, and anything that affects the way we eat. She has a master's degree from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and a master's in molecular nutrition from Aarhus University in Denmark. You can see more of her work in Wired, Scientific American, Popular Science, and elsewhere.

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