Critics of transgender treatment for children have been making heavy weather of persuading people that it could be medically dangerous. However, a well-documented feature in The Australian warns that transgender doctors could face class action suits if they continue to ignore research which claims that children are being harmed.
University of Queensland law dean Patrick Parkinson, commented that doctors could be charged with medical negligence. He told The Australian:
“Are all of those risks being spelled out in words of one syllable to parents and children before prescribing puberty blockers, let alone cross-sex hormones? Hospital ethics committees (overseeing gender clinics) and medical insurers need to pay very careful attention to the risks both of misdiagnosis and the proposed treatment.”
A lawyer from one of Australia’s leading class action firms, Slater & Gordon, told The Australian that ten years ago she had won a confidential settlement for a man who underwent gender change at Melbourne’s original Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic. He told her: “I have just the same amount of psychological distress as before (transition) and now I’ve got all these physical (complications from transition) as well.”
The newspaper’s interest in the legal dimension to child transgender treatment was sparked by an article in a local legal journal, the Journal of Law and Medicine, written by leading medical negligence lawyer Bill Madden and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology Mike O’Connor.
They argue that influential recent court decisions have been based on the mistaken notion that suppression of puberty is “safe and reversible”. But lately other research suggests that this is not the case and that there are a number of serious medical risks:
the psychological and cognitive effects of six or seven years of delayed puberty may “freeze” adolescent changes at a crucial time of teenage development and may give rise to serious educational disadvantage and peer victimisation. Furthermore, if up to 80% of children “desist” at puberty then there is potential for many children to be commenced on GnRHas unnecessarily. Few major medical therapies would be approved for treatment where four out of every five patients will resolve spontaneously without treatment.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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