How Should Physicians Help Gender-Transitioning Adolescents Consider Potential Iatrogenic Harms of Hormone Therapy?

AMA J Ethics. 2017 Aug 1;19(8):762-770. doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.8.ecas3-1708.


Counseling and treatment of transgender youth can be challenging for mental health practitioners, as increased availability of gender-affirming treatments in recent years raises ethical and clinical questions. Is a gender identity diagnosis helpful? What is the right time to treat, and should the adolescent's age matter in decision making? In this article, we discuss these questions in light of a case in which an adolescent wishes to pursue hormone therapy. Our analysis focuses on the importance of balanced decision making when counseling and treating adolescents with nonconforming gender identities. We argue that clinicians' communicating appropriate expectations about the effectiveness and limitations of hormone therapy and the risks of psychological and physical iatrogenic effects is critical.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Decision Making
  • Gender Identity*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / psychology
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease*
  • Physicians
  • Transgender Persons*
  • Transsexualism / drug therapy*