Prescott v. Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego
On September 26, 2016, the mother of a transgender teenaged boy who was admitted into Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego (RCHSD) for inpatient care filed a lawsuit against the hospital for discrimination against her son.
Katharine Prescott took her 14-year-old son, Kyler Prescott, to RCHSD in early April 2015 for suicidal ideation and for treatment of his serious self-inflicted injuries following an incident of transphobic harassment by his peers. The hospital was aware that Kyler was a transgender boy and Katharine made clear to hospital staff that her son must be treated as male for all purposes. But during his stay, hospital staff repeatedly addressed Kyler—who came out to his family as transgender at 13 and whose gender markers were legally changed to male—as a girl.
Twenty-four hours into his 72-hour stay, and after several failed attempts by his mother to correct the discrimination by the hospital, the hospital’s psychiatrist determined that despite his serious mental health issues, Kyler should be discharged early from RCHSD rather than remaining for the full 72 hours. About five weeks later, on May 18, 2015, Kyler died by suicide.
Studies show that when transgender children are unable to live consistently with their gender identity, they experience high rates of depression and self-harming behaviors, including suicide. The consequences of disaffirmation of one’s gender identity and discrimination are dire for transgender youth: they experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation at two to three times the rate of their nontransgender peers.
Katharine is represented by the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and attorneys at Foley & Lardner LLP. The complaint, filed in federal court in San Diego, states that RCHSD violated federal and California laws by discriminating against Kyler based on his sex (including his gender identity) and based on his disability, and that the hospital engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by claiming that it was experienced in treating transgender patients, when in fact it discriminated against Kyler and made his condition worse.
In September 2017, the district court denied RCHSD’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The court allowed many of the claims in the lawsuit to proceed, including Katharine’s claim on behalf of Kyler under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in healthcare. Among other things, the Court concluded that “discrimination on the basis of transgender identity is discrimination on the basis of sex.” In May 2018, the district court denied much of RCHSD’s second motion to dismiss other state law claims.
Katharine and RCHSD reached a settlement to resolve the lawsuit, and the case was dismissed on September 4, 2019. Read about the case