Dealing with Moral Challenges in Treatment of Transgender Children and Adolescents: Evaluating the Role of Moral Case Deliberation

Lieke Josephina Jeanne Johanna Vrouenraets, Laura A. Hartman, Irma M. Hein, Annelou L.C. de Vries, Martine C. de Vries, Bert A.C. Molewijk

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Treatment teams providing affirmative medical transgender care to young people frequently face moral challenges arising from the care they provide. An adolescent’s capacity to consent, for example, could raise several issues and challenges. To deal with these challenges more effectively, several Dutch treatment teams started using a relatively well-established form of clinical ethics support (CES) called Moral Case Deliberation (MCD). MCD is a facilitator-led, collective moral inquiry based on a real case. This study’s purpose is to describe the teams’ perceived value and effectiveness of MCD. We conducted a mixed methods evaluation study using MCD session reports, individual interviews, focus groups, and MCD evaluation questionnaires. Our results show that Dutch transgender care providers rated MCD as highly valuable in situations where participants were confronted with moral challenges. The health care providers reported that MCD increased mutual understanding and open communication among team members and strengthened their ability to make decisions and take action when managing ethically difficult circumstances. However, the health care providers also expressed criticisms of MCD: some felt that the amount of time spent discussing individual cases was excessive, that MCD should lead to more practical and concrete results, and that MCD needed better integration and follow-up in the regular work process. We recommend future research on three matters: studying how MCD contributes to the quality of care, involvement of transgender people themselves in MCD, and integration of CES into daily work processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2619-2634
Number of pages16
JournalArchives of sexual behavior
Issue number7
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Clinical ethics support (CES)
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Moral case deliberation (MCD)
  • Moral challenges
  • Transgender

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