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“I feel very strongly that this is a misuse of their power,” said Dr. Meredithe McNamara, an adolescent medicine physician at Yale who treats transgender children and testified at the meeting.
Mr. DeSantis nominated Dr. Ladapo, a physician and clinical researcher then at the University of California, Los Angeles, as surgeon general in September 2021. Together, the two men have repeatedly taken scientific uncertainty — be it about coronavirus vaccines or about gender-affirming care in adolescents — and wielded it to justify aggressive policies out of the mainstream medical orthodoxy.
A Republican state lawmaker in Florida introduced legislation in 2021 and again this year that would have criminalized the performing of gender-affirming surgery on transgender adolescents and would have made it a first-degree misdemeanor to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones. In both years, the bill did not advance in the state’s House of Representatives.
In April, Dr. Ladapo sent a letter to physicians in Florida recommending against prescribing gender-affirming medications and surgeries for minors as well as facilitating social transitions, such as changes in hair styles or pronouns. The memo spurred a state investigation that prompted the loss of Medicaid coverage of gender-related treatments for patients of all ages.
In June, Dr. Ladapo asked the state’s medical board to consider a ban, arguing that evidence for gender-affirming care in adolescents was “extraordinarily weak” and that it came with a “high risk for long-term, irreversible harms.”
Two months later, on the evening before the board was scheduled to vote on whether to craft its own rule, Dr. Ladapo called board members to check in, an unusual move, according to one member who requested anonymity because he was concerned about his privacy. Typically, he said, the board would decide to investigate physicians after receiving complaints, not at the behest of the surgeon general. The next day, the board voted to draft a new standard of care.
The Department of Health, which Dr. Ladapo oversees, said that there was nothing inappropriate about the surgeon general reaching out to the board members.