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VATICAN CITY, March 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life has argued on the Vatican News website that it’s acceptable to give children a puberty-blocking hormone in “very restricted cases.”

The Academy member, Laura Palazanni, said that Italy’s National Committee of Bioethics (NBC) – of which she is the vice president – had advised that the puberty blocker triptorelin should be used “only briefly” to create “a window of opportunity” for doctors to appropriately diagnose a child when he or she is at risk of self-harm, suicide, or self-medicating with puberty blockers bought over the internet.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the College of American Pediatricians, told LifeSiteNews that puberty blockers should never be given to a physically healthy child.

“It is never ethically permissible to give a physically healthy child puberty blocking medication because these drugs cause objective harm,” she said via email. “Ethical and compassionate physicians do not give any child, let alone a suicidal one, medications that cause harm.”

“Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (CCC 369). “‘Being man’ or ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.”

“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity,” the Catechism states (CCC 2393). The Church also teaches that “except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.”

Pope St. John Paul II founded the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1994 to defend and promote “the value of human life and the dignity of the person.” Pope Francis has gutted the Academy of many of its members appointed during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, removed its requirement that members sign a pro-life declaration, and expanded its mandate to include a focus on the environment. A number of the Academy’s new appointees disagree with or question Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia.

Palazanni had stressed that the child taking the hormone should be monitored by a “multi-specialist team” including endocrinologists, adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, ethicists, and other experts.  

Palazzani is also a Professor of Law at the University of Rome. She had been speaking to a reporter from the Holy See’s Vatican News website about the NCB, a non-Catholic organization, cautioning the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency (Aifa) about the dangers of triptorelin.

Triptorelin is used to treat prostate cancer and is also used to cause chemical castration. It is now being prescribed by doctors in Italy and other countries to prevent puberty, both in children suffering from early-onset puberty and gender confusion.  

It has recently been in the Italian news that triptorelin prescriptions are now paid for by the nation’s public health service. Palazzani told Vatican News reporter Giada Aquilino that the “relevant ethical problem” was not the question of “reimbursement” but the use of the hormone, whose long-term risks are still unknown, as a puberty blocker.

Palazzani explained that the NCB had been asked by Aifa, long after it had already approved the hormone, to advise the agency on the ethics of its use. She said that the NCB, “aware of the gravity of the issue and of the lack of available scientific literature, had suggested consent to the use of this drug only in very restricted cases, with prudence, judged on a case by case basis.”

When asked about the risks of blocking puberty with triptorelin, Palazzani claimed that the subject of the permanence or transitory nature of gender dysphoria is “very complex.” If a child experiences symptoms at a very young age, at three or four years old, they tend to persist into adolescence. At 16 these children begin to take hormones and when they are legal adults they “change sex,” she said.

According to the Vatican News story, sex change is allowed by Italian law under appropriate medical supervision and psychiatric evaluation.

Dr. Cretella advised that puberty blockers are neither antidepressants nor antipsychotics. They aren’t used to treat mental illness, and puberty blockers have significant side effects.

“When given to a physically healthy child with gender dysphoria, puberty blockers induce a disease state called hypogonadotropic hypogonadism which impairs fertility, halts normal brain development and stunts growth for as long as they are on the medication,” she said.

“Even when used appropriately to treat physical diseases such as precocious puberty in children, as well as prostate cancer and endometriosis in adults, blockers have been associated with negative long term side effects including severe osteoporosis, long term memory problems and an increased risk for testicular cancer,” the pediatrician continued.

“In sum, giving puberty blockers to a physically healthy child who suffers from gender dysphoria always violates the long standing medical ethics principle of ‘first do no harm.’”