Swedish hospital no longer gives puberty blockers, sex hormones to children
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 6, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital will no longer prescribe puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children under 16. In a recent statement, the hospital explained why children being treated for gender dysphoria in its affiliated Tema Barn – Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital will no longer be given these drugs.
“In December 2019, the SBU (Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services) published an overview of the knowledge base which showed a lack of evidence for both the long-term consequences of the treatments, and the reasons for the large influx of patients in recent years," the new Karolinska University Hospital policy reads.
“These treatments are potentially fraught with extensive and irreversible adverse consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis,” it continues. “This makes it challenging to assess the risk / benefit for the individual patient, and even more challenging for the minors and their guardians to be in a position of an informed stance regarding these treatments.”
The new policy referred to the December 2020 U.K. High Court decision in the Keira Bell case, in which the court ruled that it was “highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers” and that it was “doubtful” that children age 14 or 15 could properly understand and appreciate the seriousness of the process.
“For individuals between the age of 16 and 18, the [U.K.] court considers it advisable to request court approval before starting hormonal treatment, since the treatment should be considered experimental,” the Swedish policy related.
“As a result of this ruling, the NHS [National Health Service] put an end to initiating hormonal treatments in new cases of individuals under 16, while recommending a thorough review of ongoing, actively treated cases. For patients between ages 16 and 18, it is recommended that the treating physician receives court approval before cross-sex hormones are initiated.”
The consequences of the Keira Bell case were far-reaching: Thanks in part to the U.K. High Court’s ruling, the Swedish hospital has decided to stop giving “hormonal treatments” to children under 16, and to be very careful in administering them to children between 16 and 18.
“The patient must receive comprehensive information about potential risks of the treatment, and a careful assessment of the patient’s maturity level must be conducted to determine if the patient is capable of evaluating, and consenting to, the treatment,” the new policy states.
Children who are already receiving puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones will be assessed individually to determine whether the treatment should continue. This will depend on the children’s “degree of maturity and ability to consent” as well as their capacity to understand the uncertainty of long-term effects, the known long-term effects, and the “potential risks.”
The Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine (SEGM), which published the new policy in English, called its implementation “a watershed moment.”
“Sweden is the first country whose renowned hospital has explicitly stopped following the Dutch protocol, which allows for administration of puberty blockers at age 12 (and increasingly, as young as 8–9, at the early stage of puberty known as Tanner 2), and cross-sex hormones at the age of 16,” SEGM stated. “It also is the first country to officially deviate from WPATH [the World Professional Association for Transgender Health] guidance.”
Among other things, the WPATH advises that some children might be “eligible” for puberty-suppressing hormones from the age of nine.
According to SEGM, Finland has also recently changed its policies about treating gender dysphoria, prioritizing “psychological interventions and support rather than medical interventions, particularly for youth with no childhood history of gender dysphoria.”
Dr. Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians told LifeSiteNews that the ideological Dutch Protocol is finally getting the criticism it deserves.
“The indiscriminate use of the Dutch Protocol, consisting of pubertal suppression and cross-sex hormone use in minors with gender identity issues, is finally receiving warranted critical scrutiny and media coverage in Europe,” she said via email.
Noting that the U.K. and the Swedish hospital have put on the breaks, Cretella stated that Finland, too, has begun to restrict hormonal treatment of minors.
“In addition to these entities concluding that risk outweighs any alleged benefit, Finland also restricted its use of blockers and cross-sex hormones in minors based on risk of harm from these interventions and the lack of scientific evidence for their safety and efficacy,” she said. “Finland also outright rejects surgery for minors with gender dysphoria.”
Cretella added that the American College of Pediatricians has argued since 2016 that “science and sound medical ethics” demand that the U.S., too, should stop the “uncritical use of blockers and cross-sex hormones in these emotionally vulnerable and often traumatized youth.”