Principlism and contemporary ethical considerations for providers of transgender health care

Luke Allen, Noah Adams, Florence Ashley, Cory Dodd, Diane Ehrensaft, Lin Fraser, Maurice Garcia, Simona Giordano, Jamison Green, Thomas Johnson, Justin Penny, Katherine Rachlin, Jaimie Veale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Transgender health care is a subject of much debate among clinicians, political commentators, and policy-makers. While the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC) establish clinical standards, these standards contain implied ethics but lack explicit focused discussion of ethical considerations in providing care. An ethics chapter in the SOC would enhance clinical guidelines. Aims: We aim to provide a valuable guide for healthcare professionals, and anyone interested in the ethical aspects of clinical support for gender diverse and transgender people of all ages. Recognizing that the WPATH is a global association, we address broad challenges. We offer a reflection on general ethical principles, providing conceptual tools for healthcare providers, patients, and families to navigate the specific challenges they might encounter in transgender health care, in line with WPATH’s worldwide mission and scope. Method: This article employs a descriptive analysis, and our framework of reference is the four principles of biomedical ethics: respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. Results: The article presents a discussion on the four ethical principles as applied to transgender health care. We address issues such as respect for patient autonomy in decision-making, the role of beneficence and nonmaleficence in clinical interventions, and the importance of justice in equitable treatment and access to care. Some of the ethical concerns we address in this article pertain to the current sociopolitical climate, where there has been increasing legal interference, internationally, for transgender and nonbinary people, particularly youth, seeking medical care. Discussion: We highlight the interplay between ethical principles and clinical practice, underscoring the need for ethical guidance in addressing the diverse challenges faced by healthcare providers and patients in transgender health care. We advocate for continuous refinement of ethical thinking to ensure that transgender health care is not only medically effective but also ethically sound.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2024


  • Autonomy
  • beneficence
  • ethics
  • justice
  • nonmaleficence
  • standards of care
  • transgender


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