Doctor and professor compared transgender medicine to history of inhumane epilepsy treatment
A British clinical neuropsychologist and professor is warning that we may look back on mainstream transgender treatment as a medical scandal, harmful to those it claimed to help.
Medical scandals are common in the history of medicine, Dr. Sallie Baxendale, a consultant clinical neuropsychologist and a professor of clinical neuropsychology at University College London, wrote last week in Unherd. She described as an example the practice of drilling holes in the skull or amputating limbs to treat epilepsy.
The problems arise “when doctors fundamentally misunderstand the cause of a condition and treat the symptoms instead,” Baxendale (pictured) wrote. Medical scandals persist when doctors “fail to properly monitor outcomes, and modify their practice in response to known adverse outcomes.”
When that happens, “our patients suffer — often greatly and for the rest of their lives — if indeed they survive,” she continued.
“These fundamental errors underpin the depressingly regular scandals that punctuate the history of medicine.”
The testimonies of “detransitioners” demonstrate that “gender-affirming care” can cause harm instead of healing, Baxendale wrote.
Detransitioners are patients who once identified with the opposite sex and often accepted hormones or surgery — but later reversed course. They quit taking hormones and other measures prescribed to change gender and sometimes pursue surgery to undo the alterations to their bodies.
Videos on YouTube interviewing and featuring detransitioners quote them saying they became even more depressed after trying to change genders; some said they were in pain due to treatments, others expressed steep anxiety and still others said they realized it was a mistake.
“Detransitioners stand before us as living, breathing examples of people who have been harmed,” according to Baxendale.
“Many detransitioners are young women who underwent treatment for psychological distress that has left them with irreversible, life-long changes to their bodies: a deep voice, a beard, and compromised sexual function,” Baxendale wrote.
“Some have had their breasts surgically removed; some may be infertile. Others are young men who have been castrated.”
Doctors treated many gender dysphoric people improperly because, as in other medical scandals, they misunderstood the cause of their symptoms, according to Baxendale.
The doctors “misattributed” their symptoms “to the notion that they had been born in the wrong body, and that they would be helped by the surgical creation of the ‘correct’ body,” she wrote.
For many detransitioners, at least, “this assumption was incorrect.”
Even more, some doctors compound their mistakes by blaming the patients for their regret, arguing that many people regret all kinds of medical procedures, Baxendale wrote.
“However, there is a fundamental difference between patients who are unhappy with the outcome of elective treatments recommended for their condition, and those who have been misdiagnosed,” she continued.
“They are responding appropriately to the consequences of a grave medical failure.”
Doctors have a fundamental duty not to offer harmful treatments to young people who will not benefit from them,” she wrote.
According to Baxendale, medical history as well as ethics should remind doctors of their responsibility to do no harm.
IMAGE: University College London