During this year’s legislative session, 20 states have introduced legislation to restrict transgender youth’s access to therapies and treatments, including gender-affirming care. These bills, should they be signed into law, would interfere with the physician-patient relationship by penalizing or jailing physicians who administer or refer these services. While Colorado has not seen anti-trans legislation, the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians opposes any measure that would interfere with a physician’s ability to provide evidence-based patient care, including gender-affirming care for gender-diverse patients — specifically for children and adolescents.
Primary care physicians, and family physicians specifically, are seen as leaders in their communities, enjoy close relationships with their patients, and are trusted sources of continuing and comprehensive medical care from cradle to grave. Legislative efforts to dictate which care is medically acceptable violate the physician-patient relationship. Family physicians, and not the government, are best qualified to serve as each patient’s source of medical advice and advocate on behalf of the patient in all-health related matters. Legislative interference in the physician-patient relationship erodes trust and may ultimately lead to adverse outcomes in patients’ physical and mental health, higher health care costs, and reduced access to care.
Because of the importance of this physician-patient relationship, physicians and other health care clinicians should never face disciplinary action for providing evidence-based care, including gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This legislation, if enacted, could force physicians to decide between the health and well-being of their patients and legal or professional jeopardy. Physicians must have the ability to practice medicine that is informed by years of medical education, training, and clinical experience freely and without threat of intervention by the government or some other entity. Efforts to criminalize or penalize physicians for providing necessary care not only threatens physicians’ ability to serve their communities but also threatens to exacerbate the existing primary care shortage in rural and underserved areas across our state.
All patients should have access to comprehensive primary care, including gender-affirming care. Transgender, gender-diverse, and other marginalized populations, already subject to disproportionately high negative health outcomes, should be treated no differently.