Medically speaking, prescribing HGH seems to be safe, at least in the short term. Treatment is conducted before puberty, roughly between the ages of ten and sixteen, with minimal side effects during that time. Longer-term studies have watched for increased rates of various cancers and so far haven’t found any. However, a decades-long study conducted in France that followed 7,000 people who had been given HGH when they were younger did find a slight increase in all-cause mortality compared to those who had not. The increase primarily stemmed from elevated rates of heart disease.

Giving HGH to short, but otherwise healthy, kids is controversial for a few reasons. For one, the long-term health effects are still relatively unknown. There also doesn’t seem to be any boost to health-related quality of on average. Short kids who don’t receive the treatment are generally just as happy and successful as those who do. Moreover, many pediatricians see this as an issue of fairness. One pediatrician This American Life interviewed called it “cosmetic endocrinology.” The aforementioned anonymous doctor also complained to the radio show that the affluent parents she sees frequently manage to get their treatments covered by insurance and somehow get approved for patient assistance programs typically reserved for patients who can’t afford treatments.