Boston Children's Hospital is warning staff of increased threats of violence over the surgical care it offers to transgender youth.
The hospital says it is dealing with a large number of hostile phone calls and emails, with some threatening violence against doctors and staff.
"We are deeply concerned by these attacks on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community,'' the hospital said in a statement posted to social media Tuesday.
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Boston Children's became the focus of far-right social media accounts, news outlets and bloggers last week after they found informational YouTube videos published by the hospital weeks ago about surgical offerings for transgender patients.
People on social media accused the hospital of improperly performing hysterectomies on children. The hospital said it only performs such a procedure on those 18 and older as a part of its Gender Multispecialty Service, but the response was swift and relentless, with a barrage of users demanding the hospital be shut down and calling the surgeries "mutilation,'' "barbarism'' and "child abuse,'' while accusing its doctors of engaging in malpractice or illegal activity.
"We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and we reject the false narrative upon which they are based," the hospital's statement continued. "We are working with law enforcement to protect our clinicians, staff, patients, families, and the broader Boston Children's community and hold the offenders accountable. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to protect our people."
Boston Children's ended its statement, saying it is proud to be home to the first pediatric and adolescent transgender health program in the United States,
"They were the first program and really pioneered this life-saving care for trans youth, so they are a large target," said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at the Cyberlaw Clinic. "It ties into a broader campaign to target gender-affirming care and reduce the ability for trans people to even exist in public."
Dr. Scott Hadland works at Mass General for Children and says he has been dealing with threats for years.
"I worry about my career coming under threat, I worry about the safety of myself and the safety of my family," Dr. Hadland said. "I worry about the patients I care for and if they will be able to access the care that they need if I am being threatened."
"Dialogue and rhetoric, and threats of violence, have caused me to be very mindful of the work that I do, and making sure I am safe," he said.
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"This is something we need to be taking seriously," said BIGfish PR founder and Emerson College professor David Gerzof Richard. "The challenge that we face here is that sometimes, someone will say, 'This is my opinion and I should be able to share this,' and freedom of speech starts to come in."
Richard said the campaign against Boston Children's started on social media and quickly spread -- the fact that it was false did little to slow down the claims.
The professor added that this illustrates the issues social media companies face, especially when it comes to policing accounts.
"The problem is the anonymity that social media affords the conversation allows it percolate and bubble up to the point where you get some people who are disturbed that see this and feel like they need to take matters into their own hands, and that is when we have a real problem," Richard added.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition also condemned the attacks as baseless claims continuing an assault on trans youth and trans health care that is spreading across the U.S.
"Attacking children and those who care for them for seeking appropriate medical care is an indefensible position and at its core, an ill-fated attempt to erase transgender people from public life,'' the coalition said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report