Medical professionals and groups are sounding growing international concern around the use of puberty blockers to treat young people with gender dysphoria because of the low certainty of benefits, but the significant potential for medical harm. Family First is calling on the New Zealand government to pause the use of puberty blockers for teenagers while further research is undertaken, a sentiment supported by a majority of New Zealanders.
Sweden’s leading gender clinic – Stockholm’s Astrid Lindgren children’s hospital – has become the world’s first to end routine treatment of minors under the age of 18 with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and may only be provided in a research setting approved by Sweden’s ethics review board. The Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine called it a watershed moment, with one of world’s most renowned hospitals calling the “Dutch Protocol” experimental and discontinuing its routine use outside of research settings.
Earlier this year, the British High Court banned the use of puberty blockers, which begin the gender transition process, for children under 16 as it deemed they were too young to consent. Britain’s NHS recently withdrew a claim that the effects of puberty blockers are “fully reversible” – a claim recently made on TVNZ’s Sunday programme, but challenged by experts spoken to by Newshub.
Professor Christopher Gillberg, an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry, and who gave expert evidence in the British High Court, believes prescribing drugs to delay puberty is a scandal and tantamount to conducting ‘a live experiment’ on vulnerable children. He said ‘In my years as a physician, I cannot remember an issue of greater significance for the practice of medicine. We have left established evidence-based clinical practice and are using powerful life-altering medication for a vulnerable group of adolescents and children based upon a belief.’
Prof Gillberg and other leading medical experts revealed:
- Puberty-halting drugs can harm a patient’s brain and bone development;
- Medics are failing to warn about the infertility risks posed by puberty blockers;
- Children who regret treatment find themselves ‘locked’ into new bodies;
- Internet sites persuade autistic children they are transgender when they simply have ‘identity issues’.
In Australia, The Australian reports on a new paper involving gender clinic staff from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, which says that “gender clinicians are under increasing pressure to enable ‘conveyor belt’ medicalisation of children who arrive already convinced that hormonal drugs are the only solution to their distress. In the Westmead study, there were high rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideas, behavioural disorders, autism and “adverse childhood experiences” such as family conflict, exposure to domestic violence, parents with mental illness, loss of important figures through separation, and bullying.
The authors say; “(Yet) families tended to medicalise the child’s distress, attributing it solely to gender dysphoria as an isolated phenomenon, with the consequence that the family identified the medical pathway as providing the only potential way forward.”
A leading expert clinical psychologist Thomas Steensma from the Dutch clinic which pioneered puberty blocker drugs for children distressed by unwanted sexual development has also sounded the alarm about gender clinics around the world “blindly adopting” the use of puberty blockers without further research.
Finland revised its treatment guidelines in June 2020, prioritising psychological interventions and support over medical interventions, particularly for youth with post-pubertal onset of gender dysphoria.
A recent poll of 1,000 New Zealanders surveyed by Curia Market Research found that 51% support a ban on puberty blockers for under 16s and 28% disagree.
A 2018 report “Children Transitioning: Childhood gender dysphoria – A paediatrician’s warning to New Zealand” written by Professor John Whitehall from Australia sends a strong warning to New Zealand that allowing children to choose their gender has no scientific evidence in medical literature to support the massive interventions of the medical pathway, and that the most vulnerable of children will be at particular risk.
Family First is calling on the Ministry of Health to place a ban on puberty blockers for under 16s while much-needed further research is undertaken.