Doctors treating children at a major public hospital gender clinic have questioned the basis of the ‘gender-affirming’ approach in medicine.
Senior physicians at the NSW Children’s Hospital Westmead’s gender clinic have studied the physical and mental health of 79 patients in a rare academic study of the outcomes of children who presented with gender distress and gender dysphoria. The findings cast doubt on the scientific basis of the gender-affirming approach followed by the nation’s other children’s hospitals.
In an open access academic paper, CHW psychiatrists, endocrinologists and other physicians, and a senior medical ethics expert, called for a “much more nuanced and complex approach” as analysis revealed 88 per cent of children presenting at Westmead’s gender clinic had at least one co-morbid mental health condition, with more than 50 per cent diagnosed with behavioural disorders or autism. One in five children who consulted the clinic with gender-related distress later had these feelings resolved, and almost one in 10 with a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria, some who had taken puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, later discontinued transitioning.
Parents of children with gender distress are often told their child is at high risk of suicide if the gender-affirming path is not followed. “An unanswered question in the paediatric literature is whether gender-affirming medical treatment improves or does not improve mental health outcomes and quality of life,” said CHW doctors, including paediatric psychiatrist Kasia Kozlowska, paediatric endocrinologists Geoffrey Ambler and Ann Maguire and physician Joseph Elkadi.
The study comes as the approach of doctors practising gender-affirming medicine comes under scrutiny in court, as parents seeking to block prescription of puberty blockers to their children call expert witnesses to challenge the evidence. One recent Family Court case initiated by a parent seeking to halt their child being prescribed puberty blockers was settled midway through evidence as doctors from a major children’s hospital gender clinic called as witnesses came under scrutiny.
Solicitor Bill Kordos, who acted for the parent, said: “What became apparent to me running the case is that the science and the evidence didn’t seem to support the recommendations of the gender clinic. The unravelling of the science and the medicine was so telling that I in fact became alarmed that, if this is one case, and there are hundreds of children being put on what seems to be a conveyor belt, and young children are being told they have gender dysphoria without the whole picture being addressed, at the end of this court case I felt it was a form of child abuse.
“I also formed the view that they appeared to have politicised healthcare, which directly threatens the welfare of children. An inquiry should be held as to how these clinics are operating. I think they’re exposing themselves to a massive class action.”