Ethical issues involving fertility preservation for transgender youth

Harris, R. M.; Kolaitis, I. N.; Frader, J. E.

J Assist Reprod Genet. 2020 Aug 12

Abstract

PURPOSE: To investigate ethical issues associated with fertility preservation (FP) in transgender youth based on reports of patients and their parents. METHODS: Our qualitative study involved in-person interviews with 54 subjects (35 patients and 19 parents). Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and verified. Each subject completed a demographic questionnaire, and each patient's medical chart was reviewed for additional information. We analyzed the data using inductive thematic content analysis. RESULTS: Themes that emerged included a range of desires and ambivalence about having genetically related children, variability in understanding the potentially irreversible impact of gender affirming hormones (GAHs) on fertility, use of adoption, and the impact of age on decision-making. Subjects (patients and parents) noted barriers to FP, such as cost and insurance coverage. Several parents expressed concern that their transgender children may have future regret about not attempting FP. Both transgender youth and their parents felt FP was an important precaution. CONCLUSIONS: Our study took advantage of the richness of personal narratives to identify ongoing ethical issues associated with fertility preservation in transgender youth. Transgender youth and their parents did not fully understand the process of FP, especially regarding the effects of GAHs, had fears that FP could reactivate gender dysphoria, and noted barriers to FP, such as cost, highlighting economic disparity and lack of justice. These findings highlight ethical issues involving the adequacy of informed consent and economic injustice in access to FP despite expressed interest in the topic.

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