Informed Consent for Transgendered Patients

J Sex Marital Ther. 2019;45(3):218-229. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2018.1518885. Epub 2018 Dec 22.


The request of a transgendered-identified patient for psychiatric, medical, or surgical services creates ethical tensions in mental health professionals, primary care physicians, endocrinologists, and surgeons. These may be summarized as follows: Does the patient have a clear idea of the risks of the services that are being requested? Is the consent truly informed? While this question is starkly evident among cross-gender identified children contemplating puberty suppression and social gender transition and young adolescents with rapid-onset gender dysphoria, it is also relevant to young, middle-aged, and older adults requesting assistance. Many patients cannot tolerate detailed discussion of the risks. This article reviews the history of informed consent, presents the conflicts of ethical principles, and presents three categories of risk that must be appreciated before informed consent is accomplished. The risks involve biological, social, and psychological consequences. Four specific risks exist in each category. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health's Standards of Care recommend an informed consent process, which is at odds with its recommendation of providing hormones on demand. With the knowledge of these 12 risks and benefits of treatment, it is possible to organize the informed consent process by specialty, and for the specific services requested. As it now stands, in many settings informed consent is a perfunctory process creating the risk of uninformed consent.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Services for Transgender Persons / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Male
  • Patient Rights / ethics
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Sex Reassignment Procedures / ethics
  • Transgender Persons*