New Jersey trans man sues Catholic hospital

New Jersey trans man sues Catholic hospital

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A New Jersey trans man filed suit this week in federal court in Newark, claiming a Catholic hospital denied him access to a medically necessary hysterectomy due to anti-trans bias.

Jionni Conforti, 33, suffers from gender dysphoria. In 2015, he tried to schedule a hysterectomy at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., operated by St. Joseph’s Healthcare System.

A hospital staffer initially told Conforti the hysterectomy could be scheduled. However, Conforti subsequently was informed by the hospital’s director of mission services, the Rev. Martin D. Rooney, that the surgery couldn’t be scheduled, according to the suit.

“This is to inform you that as a Catholic hospital, we would not be able to allow your surgeon to schedule this surgery here at St. Josephs,” Rooney told Conforti in a June 2015 email cited in the suit. 

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, an attorney for Conforti, said the denial of access caused much emotional distress to his client.

“Jionni then had to undergo a new search for a surgeon that could perform the surgery and had to wait a matter of months for the surgery at a different hospital,” said Gonzalez-Pagan.

The named defendants are Rooney, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Healthcare System.

According to the suit, Conforti obtained two referral letters from medical professionals recommending a total hysterectomy as medically necessary for him, and Conforti’s insurance carrier confirmed that it would cover the procedure. 

“Jionni also had concerns about possible risk of cancer, and that influenced his decision to undergo a hysterectomy,” Gonzalez-Pagan added. 

The suit contends that defendants violated state and federal antibias laws, including New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and the U.S. Affordable Care Act.

The suit requests a permanent injunction to stop St. Joseph’s Healthcare System from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and/or transgender status.

Additionally, the suit seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages, along with reimbursement for Conforti’s legal costs. 

“We’re hopeful of success,” Gonzalez-Pagan said. “And we’re hopeful to be able to send a message that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in any setting, including health care, is both wrong and unlawful.”

Conforti is represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, based in New York, along with the Quinn Emanuel law firm, also based in New York. 

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares. A jury trial has been requested.

St. Joseph’s Healthcare System issued this statement: “St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center is a leading Catholic health-care institution serving one of the most diverse and underserved populations in New Jersey. The medical center follows the ethical and religious directives for Catholic health-care services in making decisions about care and treatment.”

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