The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a transgender woman said she was ridiculed by hospital staff and eventually denied treatment when she went to a Muncie emergency room coughing up blood.
Officials at Ball Memorial Hospital said they are investigating Erin Vaught's allegations, which triggered complaints from advocacy groups.
"The irony here is that we spend so much time teaching about transgender issues at Ball State University," said Vivian Benge, president of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance. "And yet there is Ball Memorial Hospital treading a transgender like this. It is so sad."
Vaught is a transsexual, someone who has transitioned or is transitioning from one gender to another, The Star Press reported Friday. In her case, it's from male to female.
Vaught said when she, her wife and son went to the ER on July 18, she was entered into the hospital computer system as male despite an ID that stated she was female.
"I pointed out that my ID says female," Vaught said. "There were two ladies there, and one of them snickered a little bit and covered her mouth. The other got a very annoyed look on her face."
When she went to the exam room, she was met with stares and insults and was referred to as a "he-she," an "it," and a "transvestite."
Vaught said she was kept waiting for two hours without any treatment before a doctor saw her and said she couldn't treat her because of her transgender condition.
"I was confused," Vaught said. "I told them I didn't know my condition, that's why I was there. She said 'No, the transvestite thing.' She said I couldn't see a doctor until I came back with test orders from my doctor in Indy."
Benge said such reactions are not uncommon. But Vaught and her supporters wrote about her experience on the hospital's Facebook page, attracting the attention of advocacy groups including the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance and Indiana Equality.
The groups sent a joint letter to the hospital about how Vaught was "inhumanely treated, dehumanized and disrespected."
Ball Memorial spokesman Will Henderson said the hospital first became aware of Vaught's concerns on July 19 via a Google alert, and that a patient representative was investigating the issue.
"We take our patients' rights policy very seriously," Henderson said.
While the policy doesn't mention transgender people specifically, Henderson said it would apply.
"And, should there be any merit to the concerns expressed in the comments, the Hospital will respond in the appropriate manner," hospital president Michael E. Haley said in a post on Ball Memorial's Facebook page.
Haley said the hospital is "committed to providing care with respect, dignity and courtesy."
Meanwhile, Benge said the Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance has arranged for Vaught to be treated at an Indianapolis hospital.
"We are trying to help her to regain her dignity and humanity," Benge said. "This is a very difficult kind of thing to go through."