Wed. Feb 28th, 2024
Negin Behazin

How Negin Behazin Fought for Her Rights Against Dignity Health

Think about being turned down for a potentially life-saving operation because of who you are.

Think about being turned down for a potentially life-saving operation because of who you are. That’s what occurred to Negin Behazin, who desired a hysterectomy as part of her transition to female gender. However, the major healthcare provider Dignity Health declined to operate on Behazin for religious reasons, leaving him in a lurch. The ensuing legal struggle put patient rights and religious freedom in the healthcare context to the test. In this piece, we’ll discuss the significance of Behazin’s fight against Dignity Health for LGBTQ+ and healthcare equality.

The legal proceedings of the case

Negin Behazin is a 38-year-old transgender woman who was born a guy. She started the process in 2015 and in 2017 she changed her name and gender on official documents. As part of the process, she hoped to have a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus). Her company provided health insurance through a plan administered by Dignity Health, a major U.S. healthcare provider.

Dignity Health manages over 400 Catholic-affiliated hospitals and clinics in 22 different states. Dignity Health adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), which prohibit abortion, sterilisation, and gender-affirming surgery as being incompatible with Catholic teachings.

Negin Behazin chose Mercy San Juan Medical Centre, a Dignity Health facility in Sacramento, California, to perform her hysterectomy in 2017. Two days prior to the scheduled operation, however, she got a call from the hospital saying that it had been postponed because of the ERDs. Behazin felt like she was being targeted because of her gender identification, and she was heartbroken by this.

In April of 2017, she sued Dignity Health, claiming that the hospital had broken California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination based on a person’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. She further alleged that the hospital had acted illegally by refusing to deliver a service that was supposed to be covered by her insurance.

Dignity Health has used the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and expression in defence of its stance. Because it sent Negin Behazin to another hospital that would conduct the surgery, the hospital claimed it was not discriminating against her because it was exercising its freedom to provide healthcare in accordance with its religious beliefs and values.

The study began in January of 2019 and lasted for around two weeks. Expert witnesses on medical ethics, Catholic teaching, and transgender health care were among the topics discussed by the jury. The jury also heard testimony about the toll the cancelled surgery took on Behazin’s mental health.

It was determined in February 2019 that Dignity Health’s refusal to perform Negin Behazin hysterectomy did not constitute a violation of law or a breach of contract, and the jury returned a decision in favour of the hospital. Additionally, the jury determined that Negin Behazin had not been harmed by the cancellation.

Before the judgement was read, however, the parties settled out of court, and Negin Behazin was able to have surgery at a Dignity Health clinic that was not subject to the ERDs. Dignity Health was also obligated to cover Negin Behazin medical and legal costs as part of the settlement.

The implications of the case for healthcare justice

Negin Behazin v. Dignity Health is illustrative of the difficulties transgender people have in obtaining medical care. Nearly one-third of transgender respondents to a 2015 study by the National Centre for Transgender Equality said they had experienced discrimination or harassment while trying to access healthcare. Nearly a quarter of people said they had avoided medical care because they were afraid of being mistreated.

The case also highlights the tensions that can arise between religious tenets and patients’ legal protections. A person’s religious beliefs should not be used to prevent them from receiving life-saving medical treatment or as a barrier to equal access to such services. “When you are providing health care to the public. you have an obligation to treat all patients equally,” Dr. Debra Stulberg, an expert witness for Behazin’s side, testified during the trial.

Transgender patients and other underserved populations are also negatively impacted by the case’s outcome. The case potentially restrict patients’ freedom of choice if Dignity Health is allowed to refuse some procedures on the basis of religious beliefs. It could also lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety for individuals who are unsure as to whether or not their preferred medical procedures are covered by their health insurance. Patients may avoid healthcare treatments completely for fear of being mistreated or stigmatised.

The implications of the case for LGBTQ+ rights

The case of Negin Behazin vs. Dignity Health highlights the prejudice and bias transgender persons suffer every day. However, transgender persons continue to endure widespread prejudice and violence, particularly from those who do not recognise their gender identity. At least 26 transgender persons were murdered in the United States in 2018, according to a research by the Human Rights Campaign. Most of the victims were transgender women of colour.

The lawsuit also adds to the discussion and campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights and equality that has been going on for some time now. Negin Behazin asserted her rights as a transgender woman and a patient by appealing the judgement made by Dignity Health. She also helped bring the transgender community’s challenges and healthcare requirements into the spotlight. If other transgender patients experience discrimination or refusal of care, her case may encourage them to speak up and demand justice.

The public’s perspective and understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and experiences are also impacted by this case. The case has the potential to educate those who are unfamiliar with or unsupportive of the transgender community about the reality and problems of living as a transgender person. The issue may also serve as a springboard for discussions and lessons on the significance of affirming and respecting people of diverse gender identities and expressions.

Conclusion

Negin Behazin vs. Dignity Health is a great example of a single individual standing up to a large healthcare corporation for what she believed in. The case demonstrates the possibility for religious beliefs to collide with patient rights in healthcare settings and the discrimination and difficulties transgender persons encounter while attempting to get healthcare treatments. Since the case influences public opinion and understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and experiences, as well as the quality and availability of healthcare for transgender patients and other marginalised groups, it has important implications for healthcare justice and LGBTQ+ rights.

Regardless of a person’s colour, financial status, or gender identity, the case demonstrates that much work remains to be done in order to achieve healthcare equality and social justice for all. Upon reaching the settlement, Behazin remarked, “I hope that by standing up for myself, I have helped ensure that others will not have to go through what I went through.”

Your thoughts on the Negin Behazin v. Dignity Health case? What are your thoughts on the verdict? What suggestions do you have for expanding healthcare coverage to transgender people and other underserved populations? Add your two cents to the discussion down below.

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