Dallas Court Injunction Brief Reprieve for Transgender Youth Medical Care

A Dallas court has opened a two-week window for children seeking gender-affirming medical care that has been denied in the county because of a decision by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to close to new patients a longstanding program.

County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Melissa Bellan granted temporary injunctive relief Thursday based on an application submitted by Dr. Ximena Lopez, founder of the GENECIS program at Children’s Medical Center (CMC), a facility that is staffed by UT Southwestern physicians.

Lopez joined the faculty in 2012 and in 2014 founded GENECIS, the only treatment clinic for pediatric patients with gender dysphoria in the southwestern United States.

Leslie McMurray, the transgender education and advocacy associate at Resource Center, a health clinic focused on the Dallas area adult LGBTQ + community, said GENECIS was the only place in North Texas providing psychological and endocrinology care to transgender youth.

“To have that taken away scattered these patients to the wind,” said Mrs. McMurray, a longtime friend of Lopez. Psychiatric care continued for existing patients at CMC but endocrine care ceased, forcing patients to travel to distant parts of the state, she said.

The disruption of Lopez’s program began in May 2021 when she was informed by UT Southwestern the program would be cut back. Lopez claimed she was told by top administrators at UT Southwestern that the hospital was under pressure from the governor’s office and legislators to stop treating patients with hormone therapy and puberty blockers, according to court records.

On Lopez’s behalf, attorney Charla Aldous of Aldous Walker filed a Rule 202 petition, which is a pre-litigation discovery course of action intended to establish whom to sue. This resulted in an order by Bellan to allow depositions of UT Southwestern President Daniel K. Podolsky and the centers chief executive officer, John J. Warner.

Counsel for Podolsky and Warner, Timothy Reynolds of the firm Steed Dunnill Reynolds Bailey Stephenson, filed a writ of mandamus with the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals that stayed the deposition order.

“My client never wanted to sue anyone,” Aldous said. “But UT Southwestern and others put up roadblocks to keep us from finding out the truth about who closed down GENECIS.”

Realizing the appeals would delay patient care much further, Lopez said should not wait, Aldous said. The lawsuit, Lopez v. Children’s Medical Center, was filed May 11 with the petition for injunctive relief. The hearing is scheduled for May 26, the day the temporary injunction expires.

“If the court rules in our favor, we will file a declaratory judgment to make the injunctive relief permanent,” Aldous said.

Aldous has been representing Lopez pro bono.

“I’m doing this for children. These are families that are in crisis. They’ve had to deal with the trauma of their child having gender dysphoria, some have attempted suicide, and this is their last hope, ”Aldous said.

The decision by UT Southwestern took place about seven months before Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote an opinion stating gender-affirming care could be construed as a form of child abuse. Aldous is proceeding with an assumption that discovery into the UT Southwestern administrators’ communications could reveal the earliest stages of a political strategy.

Texas Assistant Attorney General Charles K. Eldred is defending UT Southwestern. During the April 11 hearing on the pre-discover petition, Eldred argued in favor of political engagement in medical care issues.

“The governor is allowed to have opinions,… but you’re the one who makes the decisions, at the end of the day, if you succumbs pressure, or if the hospital succumbs to pressure,” Eldred said.

Lopez’s co-counsel, Stephen Malouf of Malouf & Nockels, countered, “With all do deference to Mr. Eldred, since when did political considerations become a variable in the practice of medicine? … Then they argue, ‘Well, you know, the medical school made the decision, and the medical school has the right to do so.’ No, it doesn’t. ”

Aldous said she wanted to believe that UT Southwestern administrators did not want to do this, given that for years the program was highly touted and the closing was in defiance of medical best practices.

However, counsel for the UT Southwestern president and chief executive officer defendants expressed a discordant view of transgender patients at the hearing:

Reynolds said, “We do not believe that what (Lopez) is talking about, this medical diagnosis, is a class of persons against whom there is or can be discrimination.”

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