The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 17, Issue 4, Winter 2017

Paul W. Hruz
Pages 661-671

The Use of Cross-Sex Steroids in the Treatment of Gender Dysphoria

Current clinical guidelines for the treatment of individuals who experience gender dysphoria include the administration of testosterone to women who desire to appear as men and estrogen to men who desire to appear as women. Despite the rapid and widespread adoption of this practice, strikingly little scientific evidence supports this treatment approach as a safe and effective medical intervention to prevent associated depression and suicide. Although low-quality, short-term studies have demonstrated a reduction of dysphoria, emerging evidence reveals significant bodily harm from this practice and a lack of long-term benefit in preventing depression and suicide. From an ethical perspective, this practice distorts a proper view of human nature and violates bodily integrity by directly inducing sterility. The use of exogenous cross-sex hormones reinforces rather than alleviates underlying psychiatric dysfunction while significantly increasing the risk of other medical morbidities. Despite the valid goal of alleviating suffering, this practice cannot be justified by the use of the principles of totality or double effect.