UK investigating study used to justify giving puberty-blockers to 11-year-olds
UNITED KINGDOM, July 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — When the British National Health Service (NHS) decided that hormone-blocking drugs may be dispensensed to gender-confused children as young as eleven, it did so partly on the basis of a study that’s now being investigated for poor methodology and omitted data.
Puberty-blockers are the first precursor to so-called sex reassignment surgery. They prevent puberty’s changes to a teen’s body from taking root and can permanently weaken bones. At age sixteen, patients are then given “cross-sex” hormones to develop traits resembling the opposite of their sex, such as testosterone developing muscle and body hair in girls and estrogen helping boys develop breast tissue.
The Tavistock Clinic, run by the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), offers young “transgender” patients puberty-blockers. Until 2011, a child had to be at least sixteen to qualify, but that year, researchers from GIDS and University College Hospitals began a study into the drugs’ “psychological, social and physical effects,” which led to the age being lowered to eleven, the BBC reports.
“All patients were seen regularly by mental health professionals,” GIDS claims. “They concluded that there was no evidence of harms that could be directly attributed to the treatment and that continuation of the study was appropriate."
However, an investigation by the BBC program Newsnight uncovered evidence of key information that was withheld from the participants’ parents and from health officials, as well as of problems with the study’s methodology.
Clear cause-effect relationships cannot be reliably determined due to the study’s small sample size of 44 kids and lack a control group against which to compare the results, according to the report. More concerning, neither the participating children nor their parents were told that “transitions” normally follow up the puberty-blockers with cross-sex hormones.
“I don’t see that the parents and their children could really have given informed consent given the lack of information that was provided,” Oxford sociology professor Michael Biggs said. “They were not given the information they needed in order to take this momentous life-changing step.”
Most alarmingly, follow-up data showed a “significant increase” of kids in the study answering that they “deliberately try to hurt or kill myself” after being on the blockers for a year.
Prof. Susan Bewley, who chairs Healthwatch, a charity for science and integrity in health care, is one of a number of doctors raising concerns about the lack of evidence in this area of medicine.
That change “is very worrying,” Bewley said. “Good medical practice would normally be very reflective about an increase in harms.” Yet these findings weren’t passed along to the Health Research Authority (HRA).
“The information that Newsnight has brought to our attention has not been raised with us before,” HRA chief executive Teresa Allen said in response to Newsnight’s revelations. “We will therefore investigate further, which may include a review of the original ethics opinion.” NHS England claims its policies on hormone-blockers “was based on international evidence and developed with clinical experts and publicly consulted on,” as well as an evaluation of the 2011 study (a copy of which the BBC says NHS has failed to provide). Nevertheless, in light of the new revelations, “the specification will be reviewed.”
In April, five former clinic workers resigned from Tavistock in protest, accusing GIDS of carrying out “life-changing medical intervention” for children and teens “without sufficient evidence of its long-term effects” and sometimes without even diagnosing a cause for their confusion or establishing that they truly suffered from gender dysphoria.
Last year, the NHS came under fire for administering puberty-blockers to as many as 150 children who were incorrectly diagnosed with gender dysphoria when they may have instead been autistic.
The BBC notes that the latest scandal comes as GIDS is facing scrutiny for how it presents puberty-blockers’ long-term implications to gender-confused children and how it treats dissent from gender orthodoxy.
“GIDS clinicians tell children and families that puberty blockers/hormone blocks are ‘fully reversible’ but the reality is no one knows what the impacts are on children’s brains so how is it possible to make this claim?” Dr. Kirsty Entwistle, former GIDS clinician, wrote in an open letter last week. “It is also a problem that GIDS clinicians are afraid of raising their concerns for fear of being labelled transphobic by colleagues.”