Doctor criticised for breast removal surgery

The mother of a 15-year-old transsexual child, who had his breasts removed last year, said her child was thriving after the operation

HIV treatment: the sooner the better (photo: iStock)
November 13th, 2012 12:00 pm| by admin
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A specialist doctor has been formally criticised by the health agency, Sundhedsvæsnet, for last year performing an operation to remove the breasts of a 15-year-old transsexual child.

Born with a female body, Caspian’s family said that he had acted as a boy from an early age and as a result had started taking male hormones that meant he had developed a deep voice and stubble. The hormones did not, however, prevent Caspian from developing noticeable breasts that he wanted to get rid of.

Caspian was referred to the Sexologisk Klinik at Rigshospital, which is responsible for approving sex change operations by the national health service. They turned him down for a procedure to remove his breasts, however, as only people aged 18 or over can be considered for the operation, which can only take place after several years of studies and psychological testing.

Caspian could not wait that long, so he and his family approached a private clinic, the HC Andersen Klinikken in Odense, in May 2011. After three months of consultation, doctor Jens Pilegaard Bjarnesen performed an operation to completely remove Caspian’s breast tissue.

While the family stated that Caspian thrived after the operation, Sundhedsstyrelsen’s disciplinary body last October decided to launch an investigation into the decision by the private clinic to completely remove the breast tissue, an irreversible procedure, rather than perform breast reduction surgery.

The disciplinary body criticised Bjarnesen for not conducting thorough enough psychological and sexological testing before the operation that would permanently change Caspian’s body.

“The disciplinary body has found that specialist doctor Jens Pilegaard Bjarnesen has acted substantially below the norm for ordinarily accepted professional standards with the treatment,” the disciplinary board wrote. “The disciplinary body also finds that specialist doctor Jens Pilegaard Bjarnesen should be strongly encouraged to show greater care in his future work.”

Neither breast removal surgery nor the prescription of hormone therapy to a 15-year-old are strictly speaking illegal, however, and Caspian’s parents thought the doctor made the right decision.

“As parents we have thoroughly considered the consequences of the operation as the operation is irreversible,” Caspian’s mother, Cecilie Bjørnholdt Drumm, told the medical journal Dagens Medicin last year. “But we decided that it would considerably improve his standard of living if he were to have the operation, and he did become much more outgoing afterwards. We are all very pleased with the outcome of the operation.”

Bjarnesen also defended his actions in the journal at the time.

“I was convinced by the parents and the patient that it was important. That is why I performed the procedure. I am sure the patient felt happier after the operation,” he said.

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