The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that a man gave birth to a stillborn baby. The story is especially tragic because the hospital’s medical staff did not treat the pregnant man in a timely fashion. Had they done so, the baby might have lived.
Now that you’ve read that opening paragraph at least a couple times to decide if you misunderstood it, let me explain a bit more. The unidentified birth giver began life biologically as a female but had sex-reassignment surgery to become a “man.” It seems, then, that the “former” female retained a viable ovum, and when she engaged in a sex act with a man, that ovum was fertilized.
According to the Associated Press, “The 32-year-old patient told the nurse he was transgender when he arrived at the emergency room and his electronic medical record listed him as male. He hadn’t had a period in several years and had been taking testosterone, a hormone that has masculinizing effects and can decrease ovulation and menstruation. But he quit taking the hormone and blood pressure medication after he lost insurance.”
The transgender man was rotund, but the nurse chalked that up to obesity, which is common these days. So his case was not given a high priority. As a result, several hours passed before doctors treated him.
By then, “An ultrasound showed unclear signs of fetal heart activity, and an exam revealed that part of the umbilical cord had slipped into the birth canal. Doctors prepared to do an emergency cesarean delivery, but in the operating room no fetal heartbeat was heard. Moments later, the man delivered a stillborn baby.”
Now the hospital staff members are feeling the heat for their mistake. The newswire story, published in numerous outlets, quotes the New England journal article lead author, Dr. Daphna Stroumsa of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, saying, “He was rightly classified as a man. … But that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.”
Stroumsa makes a cunning conjunction choice here. Notice the word that begins the second sentence: The word but is a conjunction, a connector between phrases, clauses, or, in this case, between sentences. The conjunction but is used to indicate a contrary idea. For example, “He’s a rich man, but he’s also a miser.” We expect rich men to spend lavishly. So when a rich man spends in a miserly fashion, his actions are contrary to our expectation.
In Stroumsa’s words we see the conjunction but appearing to lead into a contrary thought. “He was rightly classified as a man.” Then comes that conjunction, but. “But that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.” The conjunction’s implication is that the classification was independent of the person being classified, that it was the catalyst in the tragic turn of events.
That classification as a man was exactly what the person in question actively sought. The hospital staff did exactly what the person wanted, and that our culture now insists upon: they designated the person by her own choice, rather than by her actual sex. Had they classified the person by her sex (female), then they more likely would have seen the symptoms as being tied to a problem pregnancy and given this person’s treatment a much higher priority.
Stroumsa should have used the conjunction and instead of but. The word and implies something similar, that the following is tied to the preceding rather than contrary to it. The sentence should have said, “And that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.”
That would have been more honest. And it would have taken the heat off the hospital staff. The patient identified herself as a transgender “man.” According to law and protocol, the staff then treated her as a man.
Certainly no one, from the transgender person in question to her sex partner to anyone on the hospital staff, intended for that baby to die. But such tragic unintended consequences should not be unexpected when humans tamper so blatantly and carelessly with creation. Much like a conjunction connects two phrases or sentences, consequences are tied to actions.
Who is really at fault in the tragic death of this baby? I suggest that our culture deserves some of the blame for tampering so blatantly with the very basics of God’s creation and for elevating politically correct terminology to the level of facts.