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Alarm as tribunal ignores warnings over sex-change children

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A MEDICAL Practitioners’ Tribunal began hearing evidence in July 2021 against Dr Helen Webberley, a GP from Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.

It found 83 allegations that she failed to provide ‘good clinical care’ during 2016/17 to be unproven, and 36 proven. A decision on her fitness to practise is still to be determined and the tribunal will reconvene next month to decide on the penalty to follow its recently issued findings.

Dr Webberley is quite a heroine of the transgender cause. Described by Sarah Phillimore, a family lawyer who writes on child protection developments, as ‘a longstanding and enthusiastic proponent of medical transition for children’, she has a special interest in ‘transgender patients’.

She has prescribed testosterone for girls under 16 via a variety of online services such as MyWebDoctor (MWD) and Gender GP, a ‘standalone private service’ that she claims to have founded but which, according to its site, is owned by ‘Singapore based Gender GP PTE Ltd, a global organisation which provides advocacy services for LGBTQI+ people around the world’.

Dr Webberley has form. On October 5, 2018, she was convicted of two counts in relation to the ‘carrying on or managing of an independent medical agency’ without it being registered under the Care Standards Act 2000 and was fined £12,000 by Merthyr magistrates.

This latest tribunal found Dr Webberley competent to provide trans sex hormones to children, but that her record-keeping was inadequate. She failed to record, or ‘properly consider consent’, or provide adequate follow-up care, leaving one ‘child in a state of anguish’. 

The accusations centre on three patients – girls aged 11, 12 and 17 at the time, who were ‘transitioning from female to male’. The tribunal declared that ‘transgender healthcare was an evolving medical discipline’ with experts divided on best practice but the chairman, barrister Angus Macpherson, nonetheless felt able to make some definitive statements on medical practice.

He declared: ‘The tribunal finds that the reluctance of the Endocrine Society and others to embrace enlightened views of transgenderism is symptomatic of the tendency in all professions to be slow to move with the times. This inertia in respect to medical attitudes to transgenderism mirrors past attitudes to homosexuality.’ People who object to the medical transition of young children are therefore ‘unenlightened’ and their opinions equivalent to homophobia.

Mr Macpherson also said that Dr Webberley ‘may have been considered as being “at the vanguard” of the evolving approach to transgender healthcare’. He commented that there was ‘immense pressure’ on the NHS England Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and that at the time of the allegations some service users were ‘left in a state of desperation’. He found it ‘hardly surprising’ that some patients sought out Dr Webberley as an alternative.

The Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust, which operates the service, confirms that it is seeing record numbers of younger and younger children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Those seeking ‘gender re-assignment’ are finding a lack of available services, research and societal consensus.

The wider NHS supports the notion that medical and surgical transition be offered to these children, despite a lack of empirical research on alternatives and little understanding of the long-term consequences of such treatments. Now, it seems, so does the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service.

The tribunal determination on the facts includes a number of assertions which Sarah Phillimore suggests are not supported by the available evidence. A layman’s reading rings alarm bells about the march of transgender ideology across healthcare.

The tribunal rejected as ‘unevidenced’ the notion, long held by expert researchers and generations of parents and educators, that a child’s gender identity develops over time. It declared: ‘Gender dysphoria is a product of something innate and physical. It is therefore wrong to label it a “mental illness” and wrong to insist on “gate keeping” via mental health screening.’ Such definitive statements would appear to render any and all future debate redundant – perhaps that is their purpose.

The tribunal recognised the massive recent change in the numbers and ages of those now being prescribed hormones for gender dysphoria, with ever younger children being put on the regimen. However, it seems to have disregarded much of the current legal and medical debate.

The thorny issue of informed consent, for example – much tattered and torn during Covid and mass inoculation – received scant attention. Two of the children the doctor ‘treated’ were under 12. How is it possible that a vulnerable, gender-confused child not only understands the impact of irreversible hormone treatment and radical medical intervention but also freely consents?

Can any child comprehend the inevitable trauma and lifelong maintenance requirements of what will follow the hormones? How are they to appreciate the reality of sex reassignment surgery, with the pain and disappointments inherent in a ‘neophallus’ or a ‘neovagina’?

Are the relatively high complication rates especially in relation to urinary health being made clear, and how are issues of sterilisation being addressed? Importantly, why would any ethical medical practitioner choose to facilitate and conduct such barbarity on young bodies?

In 2020, the Divisional Court commented in Bell v Tavistock that adolescents younger than 16 were unlikely to be able to give consent to take reversible hormones to delay puberty and that there was a risk that the ‘affirmation path’ offered by the NHS locked in children to these escalating medical and surgical interventions.

The Cass Review, set up to examine current practice, issued an interim report before the Webberley hearing which confirmed the ‘lack of consensus and open discussion about the nature of gender dysphoria and therefore about the appropriate clinical response’. It warned that GIDS has ‘evolved rapidly and organically in response to demand, [with the result that] 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’.

  

Review chair Dr Hilary Cass, former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, dismissed claims that puberty blockers and cross sex hormones are ‘harmless’ or ‘reversible’ and pointed to the need for further research into the influence of social media, especially its impact on the alarming increase in the numbers of females presenting for treatment.

There is a link between children identifying as gender dysphoric and autism and eating disorders, and that observation alone should raise questions about the appropriateness of the current one-size-fits-all approach which fixates only on hormonal treatment.

Oddly, the Webberley tribunal appears to have ignored Cass and given little credence to testimony from growing numbers of people now in the process of ‘de-transitioning’ who feel let down by the medical profession.

There are reports too, of pressures from some parents who would rather see their child ‘change gender’ than be homosexual. Others, including Dr Webberley, have clearly been captured by the ideology of gender identity expression as promoted by Mermaids and other trans activists.

Given the paucity of medical evidence and the aversion to open discussion of these issues, I hope the tribunal clarifies its stance and comes down hard on Dr Webberley. ‘First, do no harm’ is not optional – to paraphrase Frederick Douglass: It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.

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Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop is a mediator.

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