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Nebraska woman files lawsuit against UNMC for double mastectomy she received at 16

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Nebraska woman files lawsuit against UNMC for double mastectomy she received at 16

Sep 14, 2023 | 7:57 pm ET
By Zach Wendling
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Nebraska woman files lawsuit against UNMC for double mastectomy she received at 16
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Luka Hein testifies before the Nebraska Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 8, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — A Nebraska woman who received a double mastectomy at age 16 filed a lawsuit this week against her former physicians and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Luka Hein, who is 21, is suing UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, three physicians at UNMC and her former mental health therapist for negligence. Hein alleges her physicians did not address her underlying mental health concerns nor provide her or her parents the full information needed for informed consent.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, names UNMC, Nebraska Medicine and the individual physicians and therapist. Hein also filed a tort claim Thursday against the NU Board of Regents because it has oversight over UNMC, Nebraska Medicine and the physicians.

“I was going through the darkest and most chaotic time in my life, and instead of being given the help I needed, these doctors affirmed that chaos into reality,” Hein said in a statement. “I was talked into medical intervention that I could not fully understand the long-term impacts and consequences of.” 

Spokespeople for UNMC and the university declined to comment.

Supported transgender care restrictions

Hein testified in favor of Legislative Bill 574, proposed by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, to prevent minors in the future from accessing the care Hein received. The Legislature gave final approval to the bill in May. 

Hein has traveled around the country testifying for bills similar to LB 574. She has stated that one physician told her parents, “Would you rather have a dead daughter or a living son?”

“These are not the words of a medical professional, but the words of an activist,” Hein told the Nebraska Health and Human Services Committee in February.

LB 574 bans transition surgeries for minors after Oct. 1 and authorizes the state chief medical officer to craft rules and regulations for minors’ use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Largely known as gender-affirming care, the medications and procedures are largely sought by transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals and include a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

A spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services told the Nebraska Examiner the department anticipates having emergency regulations in place on or soon after Oct. 1. 

Those guidelines would need to be approved by Gov. Jim Pillen and could stay in place for no longer than 90 days at a time. Until rules are in place, new patients cannot access either medication at that time.

LB 574 supporters, including Kauth, often pointed to Hein’s story as justification for the bill.

Mental health suffered

The lawsuit states Hein’s mental health deteriorated and she struggled in school after her parents got divorced in 2015. She was later diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

“Anxiety and panic attacks immobilized her,” the lawsuit states. “She lost her appetite, became easily angered, started cutting and expressed suicidal ideation.”

It was around the same time, the lawsuit continues, that Luka was groomed online by an older man, contributing to Hein wondering “whether it would be best to have no breasts.”

The lawsuit alleges UNMC physicians fast-tracked and rushed Hein toward breast removal and that Hein’s parents were also victims on the “road to medical hell.”

Request to shutter gender clinic

Physicians removed Hein’s breasts in 2018 and placed her on testosterone later that year, the lawsuit states, which violates guidelines put forth by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. On Jan. 10, Hein told her gender care physician she was no longer taking testosterone, was in pain all over, no longer identified as male and was not old enough to have consented to the treatments she received as a minor.

“Due to Defendants’ actions, Luka is now a medical orphan,” the lawsuit states. “Having been subjected to irreversible surgery and a four-year cascade of testosterone, doctors simply have no idea now how to help her. Having broken her, Defendants have no idea how to fix her.”

Hein is seeking a trial by jury and payment for damages ($2.25 million in the tort claim against the regents). Hein is also encouraging the NU regents to shutter the UNMC gender clinic.