Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Gender dysphoria: First, do no harm

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 28, 2022

Some years ago, I became aware that a colleague, who was working under my supervision, was going through a fairly serious psychological crisis. I asked a friendly psychiatrist for advice on how I could handle the situation, and his reasonable advice has stayed with me.

Be kind, the counselor encouraged me. Be sympathetic. Spend some time with your colleague; listen to him. Try to accommodate his needs, as you would be patient with someone suffering from a physical illness, and act on the assumption that he will recover (which proved true in this case). Be patient.

However, the counselor warned me, if your colleague begins to lose touch with reality, do not encourage his delusions. If he complains that everyone is out to get him, deny that; argue the point. If he begins describing events or conversations in grossly inaccurate terms, correct him. If he announces that he is the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, don’t start speaking French, and definitely don’t bring him a sword. You do him no favors if you help him to slip away from the real world, the psychiatrist said. Gently but firmly, do your best to escort him back, to help him see things as they are.

If that advice is sound—and it still makes good sense to me—does it not apply to the care of young people who suffer from the problem now called gender dysphoria? If a man thinks he is a woman, or a woman thinks she is a man, those unfortunate young people are not dealing with reality. They are not members of the opposite sex, and no amount of media censorship or political pandering can change that fact. Isn’t it a grave disservice—a sin against charity—to encourage their delusions, and lead them further away from the truth?

The sin is compounded, of course, when medical personnel intervene, removing healthy organs and interrupting the normal flow of hormones, for the sake of the masquerade. “First, do not harm,” the fundamental premise of the Hippocratic oath, is flagrantly violated by the surgery, by the hormone “therapy,” and by the encouragement of unreality.

The doctors who perform the surgery, the insurers who pay for it, and the politicians who mandate that payment: all play a shameful role here. But the scandal is spreading beyond the realm of medicine and health-care policy, to infect other institutions. Colleges and corporations are asking their employees to sign statements accepting the fiction of gender-reassignment—that is, signing statements affirming something that they know to be untrue. This, too, is an offense against charity, and an offense against honesty—a lie—as well.

First, do no harm. Then, do not bear false witness.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Nov. 03, 2022 1:05 AM ET USA

    A rational analysis with rational comments. However, I'm sure that, in their view, they ARE doing no harm by their actions. No one, with a wit of common sense, would support such actions but they have bought the deceit and absolutely refuse to consider any other viewpoint. Yet another example of how the devil has turned falseness into truth and the world upside down. Check out What Is A Woman to see many examples of cube-headedness with the same "logic" bouncing off the walls like an Atari game.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 02, 2022 9:52 AM ET USA

    Excellent analysis, as always! What compounds this growing evil is the customary dead silence from our "Church leaders" and attempts at the highest levels of the current administration to criminalize "transphobia," defined as any attempt to use adult thinking with parental common sense in these situations. It is Soviet style of social engineering.

  • Posted by: kdrotar16365 - Oct. 31, 2022 9:04 AM ET USA

    Sadly, so many doctors have long violated their "do no harm" oath: most egregiously by performing untold millions of abortions and as you state, now by denying and destroying the basic biology of human persons.

  • Posted by: CorneliusG - Oct. 29, 2022 9:24 AM ET USA

    I'm sure that some, perhaps much, of the gender dysphoria cases, at least of the male to female sort, are instances of fetishism being played out in public. Whether sexual fetishism is a mental illness or something less dramatic (like an indicator of a vice-dominated, perverted character) is unclear to me. Calling it all "mental illness", however, is questionable.