HSE pays for 14 sex-change ops abroad
THE HSE paid for 14 sex-change surgeries abroad over a five-year period, it has emerged.
Gender reassignment surgery is not available in Ireland but it can be organised abroad and financed by the HSE under the E112 Treatment Abroad Scheme.
Recent figures show that the HSE received 14 applications for the operation under the scheme between 2005 and 2010, and that it granted them all.
While the HSE could not reveal the total cost of the procedures, as it argued that it was "commercially sensitive", it is understood that such operations could cost up to €63,000, without taking into account the cost of travel and post-operative therapy.
Gender reassignment surgery has been approved for public patients who suffer from Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
It consists of an operation to alter a patient's genitalia to resemble the sexual characteristics of the other sex.
Most patients who applied for the operation under the E112 scheme were treated in Britain where the cost of the operations are estimated at approximately €63,000 for female-to-male procedures and €30,000 for male-to-female transgender operations.
The Treatment Abroad Scheme allows for patients to be treated in the EU or in Switzerland at the State's expense if the treatment is necessary and not available in Ireland.
Patients must provide evidence from a medical consultant that they require the operation.
A Fine Gael politician has expressed concern that sex change operations may not be necessary and remarked that they are controversial.
"There is a body of opinion within the medical profession that considers the surgery to be entirely inappropriate for the treatment of gender identity disorder," Galway West TD Brian Walsh said.
"If, in fact, the surgery is within the definition of what is medically necessary, the question must be asked why the procedures are not provided within the State at present?"
An American psychiatrist, Dr Paul McHugh, has labelled gender surgery "grim and disfiguring" which could be compared to treating someone who suffers from anorexia with liposuction. In the US, the op is considered a cosmetic procedure.