Lawyers say Australian gender clinics may face legal action following news that Britain’s Tavistock clinic is facing a major medical negligence law suit from youngsters who claim they were “started on a treatment pathway that was not right for them”. The legal action may have significant implications for several Australian gender clinics based at children’s hospitals across the country, where Tavistock’s contentious practices have played a strong influence in treatment. Leading compensation law firm Gerard Malouf & Partners is exploring the prospects and feasibility of a similar class-action lawsuit in Australia. In Britain, The Times reports that 1000 families are expected to join the medical negligence lawsuit, which is understood to allege that the gender-identity clinic “rushed” some young patients into treatment.

The Tavistock clinic is accused of recklessly prescribing puberty blockers with harmful side effects and is also alleged to have adopted an “unquestioning, affirmative approach” to children identifying as transgender. The clinic is to be shut down after an independent review, led by Hilary Cass, found it was leaving young people “at considerable risk” of poor mental health and distress, and was “not a safe or viable long-term option”. University of Queensland law professor Patrick Parkinson, who was involved in a landmark British High Court ruling that prohibited children under the age of 16 from consenting to puberty-blocking treatment, said the prospects of similar action in Australia were “very likely”. “I’m expecting to see it here, I’m expecting to see it against hospitals and against individual doctors. Sooner or later, this is going to end up in the courts as a negligence issue,” he said.

“I think Australian gender clinics apart from Sydney are less conservative and less cautious than the Tavistock was. The decision of the British government raises serious questions about the continuation of the model in Australia and really justifies a major inquiry being set up.” Professor Parkinson said the British government and the National Health Service lost confidence in the model of treatment that Tavistock promoted. “The results of the closure of Tavistock is going to be that a mental health approach will be the first line, and I suspect that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones will only be prescribed as a last resort in the most serious cases where psychotherapy does not prove to be effective,” he said. Queensland paediatrician Dylan Wilson said he believed several young adults around the country who had been injured as result of being prescribed puberty blockers or hormone treatments as minors might have recourse to the courts.

“One hundred per cent there are children who have been harmed,” Dr Wilson said. “Even if they think it was worth it at the time, there are children who have suffered infertility and sexual dysfunction as a result of treatments and they may only be realising that now. “If you’re puberty-blocked at an early stage, there are inevitable consequences. You can’t not be infertile if you’re puberty-blocked in the very first stages of puberty.” Dr Wilson questioned the standard of care in gender clinics that take a gender-affirming approach. “The standards of care have never been held in high regard outside of gender clinics themselves,” he said. “They publish their own papers and they say the paper we publish is evidence that what we’re doing is right. “They write the guidelines and they say ‘We’re following the guidelines’. “These are not internationally accepted guidelines.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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