A 16-year-old boy was allegedly given estrogen against his will and without his parents’ knowledge while in juvenile detention. A lawsuit filed on the boy’s behalf last month says county employees administered the hormone treatment without his informed consent, resulting in negative physical side effects. Now, the boy is home with his family, who says the experience has changed him forever.
An Unproven Treatment
Authorities detained the unidentified Los Angeles youth on unknown charges on June 23 of last year, the suit says. They took him to Eastlake Juvenile Hall, where two days later, doctors employed by the county conducted a medical evaluation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the doctors diagnosed the boy with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), noting that testosterone levels were “slightly high.” As treatment, they prescribed daily doses of estrogen, the hormone that regulates female reproduction and sex characteristics.
The boy objected and told the doctors he had never been informed that he would be prescribed medications. However, the lawsuit states that a nurse “incorrectly, falsely and misleadingly told [the boy] that it was for treating a small ‘nodule’ on his left breast and/or chest, in order to convince him to take the estrogen.”
Experts note that estrogen is not an accepted treatment for ODD.
“Estrogen is not a treatment for ODD. I can’t be more emphatic about that,” James McGough, a clinical psychiatry professor at UCLA said in the Los Angeles Times. “You won’t find a reference anywhere that supports the use of estrogen for ODD.”
Serious Side Effects
The boy allegedly took 13 daily doses of the hormone, afraid to refuse for fear of how it would affect his pending case, before experiencing side effects. Doctors diagnosed him with gynecomastia, or the enlargement of breast tissue in males with high estrogen levels.
The lawsuit also alleges the boy experienced pain and discomfort around the swelled area, increased body hair growth and acne. In addition, he suffered depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other psychological symptoms, the suit says.
Doctors did not notify his parents of the treatment until after the side effects appeared and the boy refused more doses.
“When I found out they were giving him the pill, I was like, why didn’t they ask me?” said the boy’s father, speaking anonymously to the Times. “When I found out what kind of pill was it, I was like, this is terrible. He’s only 16, and they were forcing him to take it.”
Doctors reportedly ended the treatment last July after the side effects appeared, and the boy was eventually released from the facility the following April. However, his father said the experience has changed him irrevocably.
“He’s like a different person,” the father said, adding that his son now scares easily and has become antisocial. “He just wants to be in his room, and he don’t come out for nothing, all day in his room. He was never like that.”
The lawsuit names as defendants the County of Los Angeles, the facility’s medical director, the doctor who prescribed the treatment, and various nurses and employees present. It seeks general and special damages in currently undetermined amounts, as well as legal fees for the plaintiff.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The top image is a stock photo used for illustrative purposes only.