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Parents sue hospital after unnecessary surgery on their child

Commonly, an injury at birth occurs when a medical professional fails to respond to some concern during a pregnancy or during the delivery. Maryland families are keenly aware of such injuries, but on rare occasions, a birth injury can result from an action taken by medical staff after the birth and even after the newborn has suffered no noticeable harm. Parents of an intersex child are suing a hospital after their child's genitals were removed, claiming that the surgery was medically unnecessary and violated their child's constitutional rights.

The South Carolina couple is suing the Medical University of South Carolina and the Greenville Hospital System alleging that they committed medical malpractice and are liable for gross negligence. When the child was 16 months old, doctors determined that the child should be a girl. However, the child is now 8 years old and chooses to identify as a boy. At the time of the surgery, the child was in the custody of the state and was later adopted by the couple. The couple was fully aware of the child's condition at the time of the adoption.

The couple claims the surgery was an act of mutilation on the child and a violation of the child's constitutional rights. Due process requires notice and a hearing, neither of which were given in this case to determine if the surgery would be in the best interest of the child.

If a court determines that the infant suffered harm due to the negligence of the hospital, the child could be compensated for the injury suffered. In cases such as these, the compensation or damages will typically go to the child, but parents can receive compensation for emotional distress in some situations.

Source: US News & World Report, "Parents of Intersex Child Sue Over 'Unnecessary' Surgery," Steven Nelson, May 14, 2013

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