‘Something has gone very wrong,’ says adolescent psychiatrist who pioneered ‘gender-affirming’ care

Special to CosmicTribune.com, November 1, 2023

A woman who was given testosterone and hormone therapy as a 14-year-old has filed a lawsuit against the doctors who supervised the start of her transition from female to male, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to the suit, the AAP, in advocating for youth transition, has made “outright fraudulent statements” about evidence for “the radical new treatment model, and the known dangers and potential side effects of the medical interventions it advocates.”

“Isabelle is now twenty years old and longs for what could have been and to have her healthy, female body back,” the lawsuit says. “The changes the testosterone have had on her body are a constant reminder that she needed an unbiased medical expert willing to evaluate her mental health and provide her the care she needed, rather than a group of ideologues set on promoting their own agenda and furthering a broader conspiracy at her expense.”

Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala / Video Image

Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala a Finnish-born and trained adolescent psychiatrist and the chief psychiatrist in the department of adolescent psychiatry at Finland’s Tampere University Hospital, said that “Medicine, unfortunately, is not immune to dangerous groupthink that results in patient harm.”

This is exactly what is happening with so-called “gender-affirming care,” Dr. Kaltiala said.

The doctor should know, she is one of the pioneers of “gender-affriming care.”

In an Oct. 30 op-ed for The Free Press, Kaltiala noted: “I attempted to address the rising international concerns about pediatric gender transition at this year’s annual conference of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. But the two proposed panels were rejected by the academy. This is highly disturbing. Science does not progress through silencing. Doctors who refuse to consider evidence presented by critics are putting patient safety at risk.”

In 2011, Dr. Kaltiala was assigned to oversee the establishment of a gender identity service for minors, making her among the first physicians in the world to head a clinic devoted to the treatment of gender-distressed young people. Since then, she has personally participated in the assessments of more than 500 such adolescents.

Kaltiala said she had “serious questions” about treating the gender-distressed from the beginning.

“We were being told to intervene in healthy, functioning bodies simply on the basis of a young person’s shifting feelings about gender. Adolescence is a complex period in which young people are consolidating their personalities, exploring sexual feelings, and becoming independent of their parents. Identity achievement is the outcome of successful adolescent development, not its starting point.”

Now, more than a decade after the gender identity service began, Kaltiala believes “something has gone very wrong” with it.

A huge point of contention for the doctor is the insistence of those who push “gender-affirming” care that the treatments and surgeries are necessary due to the young patients committing suicide.

Kaltiala said she was “disturbed by how gender clinicians routinely warn American parents that there is an enormously elevated risk of suicide if they stand in the way of their child’s transition. Any young person’s death is a tragedy, but careful research shows that suicide is very rare. It is dishonest and extremely unethical to pressure parents into approving gender medicalization by exaggerating the risk of suicide.”

The Endocrine Society of the U.S. reiterated its endorsement of hormonal gender transition for young people this year. The president of the society wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal that such care was “lifesaving” and “reduces the risk of suicide.”

Kaltiala noted she was “a co-author of a letter in response, signed by 20 clinicians from nine countries, refuting his assertion. We wrote that, ‘Every systematic review of evidence to date, including one published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, has found the evidence for mental health benefits of hormonal interventions for minors to be of low or very low certainty.’ ”

The doctor also pointed to “an oft-repeated statistic in the world of pediatric gender medicine that only one percent or less of young people who transition subsequently detransition. The studies asserting this, too, rest on biased questions, inadequate samples, and short timelines. I believe regret is far more widespread. For example, one new study shows that nearly 30 percent of patients in the sample ceased filling their hormone prescription within four years.”

Kaltiala continued: “Usually, it takes several years for the full impact of transition to settle in. This is when young people who have entered adulthood confront what it means to possibly be sterile, to have damaged sexual function, to have great difficulty in finding romantic partners. It is devastating to speak to patients who say they were naive and misguided about what transition would mean for them, and who now feel it was a terrible mistake. Mainly these patients tell me they were so convinced they needed to transition that they concealed information or lied in the assessment process.”

The doctor went on to say that what is happening to gender dysphoric children today reminds her of the recovered memory craze of the 1980s and ’90s.

“During that period, many troubled women came to believe false memories, often suggested to them by their therapists, of nonexistent sexual abuse by their fathers or other family members. This abuse, the therapists said, explained everything that was wrong with the lives of their patients. Families were torn apart, and some people were prosecuted based on made-up assertions. It ended when therapists, journalists, and lawyers investigated and exposed what was happening,” Kaltiala wrote.

“We need to learn from such scandals. Because, like recovered memory, gender transition has gotten out of hand. When medical professionals start saying they have one answer that applies everywhere, or that they have a cure for all of life’s pains, that should be a warning to us all that something has gone very wrong.”

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