Rukin Hyland & Riggin and ACLU Sue St. Joseph Health for Discrimination Against Transgender Patient

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP today filed a lawsuit against St. Joseph Health Northern California for denying care to a transgender patient.

Filed on behalf of Oliver Knight, the suit argues that withholding medical care from a patient because he is transgender violates California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. Knight, 29, is a transgender man who was scheduled to receive a hysterectomy in August of 2017 at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. Minutes before the scheduled surgery, Knight’s doctor informed him it had been canceled and would not be rescheduled because it was a Catholic hospital.

St. Joseph regularly allows hysterectomies for patients who are not transgender. Knight’s medical records show the decision to cancel the surgery was based on an “ethics assessment” completed by a reverend with no medical training. On the day of the scheduled surgery, Knight was admitted to the hospital and prepared for surgery. Many of the procedures caused him great anxiety. Hospital staff refused his request to wear a blue gown instead of a pink gown, telling him he was receiving a “female” surgery, and he was misgendered by the staff, even though he told hospital staff his pronouns and his records identify him as male.

St. Joseph Health is owned by Providence St. Joseph Health Network, one of the largest health systems in both the country—operating 51 hospitals, with over 25,000 physicians—and in California, where it operates 18 hospitals.

In addition to representing Knight, the ACLU Foundations of California and the National Health Law Program are launching the All Care Everywhere campaign to make sure all Californians get the health care they need. Catholic hospitals are already the largest health care provider in California and are expanding rapidly. For many, Catholic hospitals are the only option within hundreds of miles. The campaign will gather stories of people denied care and work to ensure Catholic hospitals do not harm more people with their discriminatory practices.

Read this blog post by Oliver Knight: Catholic Bishops Stopped My Surgery Because I’m Transgender