Transgender youth are protected by Obamacare, judge rules, opening door to San Diego hospital lawsuit

Katharine Prescott, holds a photo of her late son, Kyler, in the memorial garden they created in his memory at their home in Vista. Photos: Transgender Law Center.

SAN DIEGO — A North San Diego County mother might be the first person in the nation to file a lawsuit claiming the Affordable Care Act protects transgender minors from sex-based discrimination.

Katharine Prescott has sued Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego for discriminating against her 14-year-old transgender son, who committed suicide five weeks after leaving the hospital.

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Prescott, who filed the initial complaint in San Diego federal court, claims the hospital violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws based on his sex — including his gender identity — and his mental illness disability and engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by claiming that it was experienced in treating transgender patients.

‘MY SON WAS IN DESPAIR’

“When my son was in despair, I entrusted Rady Children’s Hospital with his safety and well-being,” Prescott said in a press statement. “Instead of recovering at the hospital, Kyler got worse because staff continued to traumatize him by repeatedly treating him as a girl and ignoring his serious health issues.”

Prescott took Kyler to the hospital in April 2015 for treatment of suicidal thoughts and self-inflicted injuries. Kyler came out as transgender at the age of 13 and had legally changed his gender markers to male, according to the complaint.

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Katharine Prescott, holds a photo of her late son, Kyler. After her son committed suicide, Katharine sued the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego for sex discrimination and engaging in unfair and deceptive business practices by claiming that it was experienced in treating transgender patients.

COMMITTED SUICIDE

The hospital knew Kyler was a transgender boy, and Prescott told hospital staff that her son must be treated as male, according to the complaint.

After 24 hours of a 72-hour stay, a hospital psychiatrist discharged Kyler, who committed suicide five weeks later, according to the complaint.

Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego spokesman Ben Metcalf said the hospital doesn’t comment on legal matters. He added that “our top priority is providing the absolute highest level of care to our patients and families” and “any allegations of wrongdoing, including discrimination, are investigated thoroughly and followed up on.”

JUDGE’S RULING

Prescott initially filed her complaint in September 2016, but it was amended earlier this month after U.S. District Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz, ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s sex discrimination protections apply to transgender kids. The court also ruled that Prescott is entitled to seek emotional distress damages on behalf of her son.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center are Prescott’s attorneys.

“The Court’s decision affirms the growing body of cases across the country recognizing that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination,” Amy Whelan, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in the statement.

Asaf Orr, transgender youth project staff attorney at National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that for more than a decade, federal courts across the country have interpreted the term sex to include protections for transgender people.

Staff writer Phillip Zonkel contributed to this report.

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Stephanie Thai

Hailing from San Francisco, Stephanie Thai is a Southern Californian transplant. She spends her time writing, reading, and eating wherever she can, though not in that order. On her downtime, Thai takes 12-hour cat naps, hikes urban trails, and frequents travel websites to entertain her expensive hobby of traveling the globe.