On the heels of the ordered closure of the infamous Tavistock gender clinic in London, which offered “gender-affirming care” and puberty blockers to thousands of children over the years, news has broken that roughly 1,000 families will file a medical negligence lawsuit against the clinic.
The suit targets the gender identity development service [GIDS] at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, charging they recklessly doled out puberty blockers with harmful side effects.
“Children and young adolescents were rushed into treatment without the appropriate therapy and involvement of the right clinicians, meaning that they were misdiagnosed and started on a treatment pathway that was not right for them,” Tom Goodhead, chief executive of the law firm Pogust Goodhead, which has taken the case, told the Times.
“These children have suffered life-changing and, in some cases, irreversible effects of the treatment they received,” he continued. “We anticipate that at least 1,000 clients will join this action.”
In December 2020, the British High Court ruled in favor of Keira Bell, who had sued the clinic claiming it had failed to carry out a proper psychiatric assessment before giving puberty blockers to her when she was 16. She was injected with testosterone when she was 17 and underwent a double mastectomy when she was 20.
The court stated it was doubtful teens aged 14 or 15 could understand the “long-term risks and consequences” of taking puberty blockers and hormone therapies. The Court of Appeal later overturned the ruling.
The lawsuit from the roughly 1,000 families will be buttressed by a report from Dr. Hilary Cass, a former president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, who was hired by NHS England to investigate the clinic.
Cass has alleged that the clinic, which has treated a reported 19,000 children for gender dysphoria since 1989, refused to collect data on the use or side effects of puberty blockers. She asked if brain development was “temporarily or permanently disrupted by puberty-blockers.”
She continued, “Because the specialist service has evolved rapidly and organically in response to demand, the clinical approach and overall service design has not been subjected to some of the normal quality controls that are typically applied when new or innovative treatments are introduced.”
“A fundamentally different service model is needed which is more in line with other pediatric provision, to provide timely and appropriate care for children and young people needing support around their gender identity,” she ended her review. “This must include support for any other clinical presentations that they may have.”
A GIDS spokesperson commented, “GIDS has not heard from Pogust Goodhead about this matter, but it would be inappropriate to comment on any current or potential legal proceeding. The service is committed to patient safety. It works with every young person on a case-by-case basis, with no expectation of what might be the right pathway for them, and only the minority of young people who are seen in our service access any physical treatments while with us.”