08/02/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Erin Vaught went to a Muncie emergency room coughing up blood. Two hours later, she was refused treatment on grounds that she is transsexual. In what is a serious lapse of medical ethics, and had Vaught died, would have been criminal negligence, Ball Memorial Hospital staff treated Vaught with contempt, ridicule, and even eventually met with dismissal of her condition.
It stated when the admitting nurse at the ER entered that Vaught was male into the computer despite the fact that her ID stated that she is female. Vaught stated “I pointed out that my ID says female. There were two ladies there, and one of them snickered a little bit and covered her mouth. The other got a very annoyed look on her face. Vaught was there with her wife and son.
When she went to the exa-room, she was met with stares and insults. She was referred to as a ‘he-she’, an ‘it’, and a ‘transvestite’. Vaught is a transsexual, or one who is physically undergoing the process of changing physical sex. Transvestites are people who often get sexually aroused while wearing the clothes of the opposite gender, but have no desire to change sexes.
The doctor arrives two hours later and said that she could not treat Vaught because of “her transgender condition”. According to Vaught “I was confused. I told them I didn’t know my condition, that’s why I was there. She said ‘No, the transvestite thing.’ She said I couldn’t see a doctor until I came back with test orders from my doctor in Indy.” What her exact condition is has not been released.
Ball Memorial Hopsital spokesman Will Henderson has said that the hospital only became aware of Vaught’s concerns on 19 July via a Google Alert. According to him, a patient representative is investigating the incident. Henderson has stated “We take our patients’ rights policy very seriously.” The policy does not mention transpeople specifically, according to Henderson, but it should apply. Hospital president Michael E. Haley has stated about this via Facebook “And, should there be any merit to the concerns expressed in the comments, the Hospital will respond in the appropriate manner. [The hospital is] committed to providing care with respect, dignity and courtesy.” The investigation was triggered by complaints from advocacy groups which stemmed from Vaught’s allegations.
Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance president Vivian Benge stated “The irony here is that we spend so much time teaching about transgender issues at Ball State University, and yet there is Ball Memorial Hospital treading a transgender like this. It is so sad.” The reaction is not uncommon, according to Benge, but when Vaught and her suporters wrote about her experience on the hospital’s Facebook page, it attracted the attention of advocacy groups including Benge’s and Indiana Equality. The groups sent a letter to the hospital describing how Vaught was “inhumanely treated, dehumanized and disrespected.”
According to Benge, her group has arranged for Vaught to be treated at a hospital in Indianapolis. She stated “We are trying to help her to regain her dignity and humanity. This is a very difficult kind of thing to go through.”
Estrogen therapy carries certain risks, including the risks of blood clots. This is why doctors are suppose to be willing to treat transpeople with dignity. What this hospital did was put Vaught in mortal danger.