Britain’s Tavistock & Portman National Health Service (NHS) Clinic is shutting down following a review that found the clinic, which has led the way in prescribing puberty blockers for young children claiming to be transgender, is not a “safe or viable long-term option.”
The north London clinic “has been accused of rushing teenagers into life-altering treatment on hormone-blocking drugs,” The Times of London reported Friday, opening the way for potential lawsuits by patients with claims of mistreatment.
Tavistock has prescribed puberty blockers to children as young as 10 years of age.
Children under the age of 16 will now be referred to children’s hospitals which, according to NHS, will provide a “holistic” approach to gender dysphoria that includes “strong links to mental health services.”
Additionally, under-16 children will only be prescribed puberty blockers in the NHS system as part of a clinical trial, the data from which will be used to study the drugs’ long-term effects.
Over the past decade, the Tavistock clinic’s patient population has surged to a 20-fold increase, along with “unacceptable” waiting lists, The Times reported.
“More than 5,000 children were referred there last year, compared with 138 in 2010-2011,” the report noted.
Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass, who has been leading a review of NHS transgender service, recommended the NHS Tavistock clinic be closed, a suggestion that has reportedly been accepted in full by NHS England.
In a letter to NHS, Cass wrote about the existence of “critically important unanswered questions” regarding puberty blockers, including “uncertainties about the long-term outcome of medical intervention.”
Brain development may also be “temporarily or permanently disrupted by puberty blockers,” Cass said, adding:
We cannot be sure about the impact of stopping these hormone surges on psychosexual and gender maturation. To date, there has been very limited research on the short, medium or longer-term impact of puberty blockers on neurocognitive development.
Cass urged an approach to treatment that emphasizes mental health services, including those for autism, as well as hormone treatment.
According to The Times, former health secretary Sajid Javid said the Tavistock shutdown is “absolutely the right decision.”
Other Members of Parliament, attorneys, and whistleblowers welcomed the decision as well.
Psychiatrist Dr. David Bell, a former Tavistock staff governor, wrote in a censored internal report in 2019 the gender clinic was “not fit for purpose.”
“I feel sorry for the children who have been, at least, neglected and, at worst, given the wrong treatment, and I’m sorry it has taken so long,” Bell reacted to the news. “I raised these issues in 2018 as have a lot of other people. The trust tried to subject me to disciplinary action. What has happened to all these children in the meantime?”
In February, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (NBHW) issued an update to its guidelines for treatment of minors with gender dysphoria that asserted “the risks of hormonal interventions for gender dysphoric youth outweigh the potential benefits”:
Following a comprehensive review of evidence, the NBHW concluded that the evidence base for hormonal interventions for gender-dysphoric youth is of low quality, and that hormonal treatments may carry risks. NBHW also concluded that the evidence for pediatric transition comes from studies where the population was markedly different from the cases presenting for care today. In addition, NBHW noted increasing reports of detransition and transition-related regret among youth who transitioned in recent years.
Similarly, the French National Academy of Medicine followed with its cautionary statement in February as well:
Although, in France, the use of hormone blockers or hormones of the opposite sex is possible with parental authorization at any age, the greatest reserve is required in their use, given the side effects such as impact on growth, bone fragility, risk of sterility, emotional and intellectual consequences and, for girls, symptoms reminiscent of menopause.
As for surgical treatments, in particular mastectomy, which is authorized in France from the age of 14, and those involving the external genitalia (vulva, penis), their irreversible nature must be emphasized.
Keira Bell sued Tavistock in 2020, as Sky News reported, claiming the clinic “rushed” her transgender treatment when she was a teen and left her with suicidal thoughts.
Bell, who won her lawsuit in a landmark High Court ruling, said the puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones (testosterone) she was prescribed, beginning after “roughly three sessions,” damaged her physical and mental health irreversibly.
In a blog post at Persuasion, Bell wrote about her quest to change her gender identity and the course it ultimately took:
But the further my transition went, the more I realized that I wasn’t a man, and never would be. We are told these days that when someone presents with gender dysphoria, this reflects a person’s “real” or “true” self, that the desire to change genders is set. But this was not the case for me. As I matured, I recognized that gender dysphoria was a symptom of my overall misery, not its cause.
The Tavistock gender clinic is expected to close by spring 2023.
Dr. Polly Carmichael, director of the Tavistock gender identity development service (GIDS), will continue to work with the new services, said Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, who, according to The Times, said he is “proud” of the gender clinic’s service and made no mention of its failings.
According to the report, the GIDS leadership “has been accused of being unduly influenced by transgender campaign groups, who ran internal support networks and weekend camps for young patients and their families.”
In the United States, Florida Department of Health Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern tweeted an op-ed from The Times of London by Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister who served from 2020 to 2022.
“I was astonished that in trying to help mostly gay children whose childhoods were being destroyed by experimental treatment, I was misrepresented by mischief-makers and their friends in certain media outlets as being anti-LGBT…”
– @KemiBadenoch https://t.co/0HqLXC2bTI
— Jeremy Redfern (@JeremyRedfernFL) July 30, 2022
“I was astonished that in trying to help mostly gay children whose childhoods were being destroyed by experimental treatment, I was misrepresented by mischief-makers and their friends in certain media outlets as being anti-LGBT with slurs gleefully retweeted by Labour politicians such as Angela Rayner and Chris Bryant,” Badenoch wrote, adding:
The reason it took this long for the Tavistock clinic to be shut down is that activists succeeded in creating an environment in which critics and journalists felt unable to interrogate the dogma that youngsters should be able to medically transition in the way overseen by Tavistock. The treatment of these women showed the heavy price to pay and many people including MPs on all sides of the house simply didn’t want to get involved.
The former minister noted the extent of the LGBTQ agenda “groupthink” in that some of the proposed plans for conversion therapy “would have inadvertently criminalised the very clinicians who blew the whistle at the Tavistock.”
“Earlier this year, the decision to pause these legislative proposals was portrayed as being anti-transgender people at a time when government was doing everything it could to ensure they received the most appropriate care,” Badenoch said.
“The country owes so much to Dr. Cass and her impartial and evidence-based work,” she concluded. “Being external to the Whitehall machine partly explains her success in getting it completed.”
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “A Doctor Checking a Child” by Pavel Danilyuk.