An Ontario, Canada, woman has filed a lawsuit in Ottawa against the health care professionals who facilitated her transition from female to male for their failure to present “alternative treatment options.”
Multiple outlets, including The National Post, a Canadian media outlet, reported that Michelle Zacchigna, 34, who is now detransitioning, underwent testosterone treatments and surgery to have her breasts and womb removed, decisions she now regrets.
According to Zacchigna’s statement of claim, “Michelle’s stated desire to become transgender was never challenged and it was treated to the exclusion of her other serious mental health issues, closing the door to alternative treatment options.”
The eight defendants include “doctors, psychologists, a psychotherapist and a counselor.” The lawsuit claims these individuals “permitted Michelle to self-diagnose as transgender and prescribe her own treatment without providing a differential diagnosis or proposing alternative treatments.”
Zacchigna told the National Post this action is “very much a David vs. Goliath undertaking. … I’ve been under the impression that all medical malpractice suits are challenging. Doctors win the majority of cases in Canada.”
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The statement of claim details Zacchigna’s troubled mental history which began when she was in elementary school. She had difficulty connecting with others and “was often bullied.” By the age of 11, she had begun “cutting her arm with a knife.”
Following a suicide attempt at the age of 20, she began seeing a psychotherapist and received treatment “for social anxiety and clinical depression,” the claim said. “Unhappy and depressed,” she dropped out of college. She “engaged with an online community around gender nonconformity.”
According to the claim, “Michelle came to believe that her biological sex of female did not match her true gender identity of male. … She further came to believe that this mismatch between her biological sex and gender identity was causing her feelings of depression, self-harming behaviour and unease in her body, a mental health condition commonly known as gender dysphoria.”
Rather than trying to confirm the self-diagnosis of a mixed-up 20-year-old, or recommending alternative treatments, medical professionals sent her on her transition journey.
In a letter recommending Zacchigna for transition treatment, her regular therapist, whom the claim states had no prior transgender patients, wrote she was an “ideal candidate for hormone therapy.”
A variety of treatments followed. These included several years of testosterone hormone therapy, breast removal, and a partial hysterectomy.
By 2016, Zacchigna had become “disenchanted” with hormone therapy. The claim states, “She no longer cared about the ongoing masculinization of her body.”
Around that time, she began to think about returning to college and contacted her original therapist for some help. “She was referred to the psychologist supervising the therapist’s practice.”
The following year, in a lengthy report, this psychologist diagnosed Zacchigna with “attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality, clinical depression, autism spectrum disorder, and traits of post-traumatic stress disorder,” the claim said.
“Michelle received these formal diagnoses for the first time nine years after she was formally referred to the (therapist) following her suicide attempt in 2008, and eight years after she first ‘came out’ as transgender in 2009.”
The psychologist “did not analyze or consider whether Michelle met the diagnosis for gender dysphoria in her assessment report.”
“On or about Nov. 20, 2020, Michelle began to question whether she had ever been transgender, or if she had ever met the criteria for gender dysphoria,” according to the lawsuit.
“Since that time, she has commenced a process of detransition towards living life as a woman again.”
The lawsuit claims, “The Defendants failed to investigate or failed to adequately investigate and/or confirm that Michelle’s stated desire to transition to the male sex was rooted in a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or resulting from other factors in Michelle’s mental health including her history of clinical depression, anxiety, developmental disabilities, and social difficulties.”
If she had been presented with other alternatives, Zacchigna could have ”learned to live with her body without surgical or hormonal treatments,” it said.
According to the lawsuit, “Michelle has struggled to come to terms with the permanent changes from her hormone treatments and hysterectomy surgery have caused: a low voice, male-pattern balding, facial hair, an enlarged clitoris, a flat chest, and the inability to ever become pregnant. All of this has caused her to suffer from a worsening of her depression.”
The National Post reports that Zacchigna “seeks $350,000 in general damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life plus an undetermined amount for past and future loss of income, past and future medical treatment, and other expenses and costs. She also seeks a return of the money billed by doctors to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.”