Doctors at a prominent Swedish hospital that treats children suffering from gender dysphoria announced they will no longer prescribe cross-sex hormones or drugs that suppress puberty.
The Karolinska University Hospital said that as of April 1, puberty blockers would no longer be given to youth younger than 16. In the hospital’s statement, first released in March outlining the policy change and later reported to English-speaking media Wednesday, the medical institution noted that the experimental measures have come under increased scrutiny in recent months amid rising numbers of youth patients being treated.
“These treatments are potentially fraught with extensive and irreversible adverse consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis. This makes it challenging to assess the risk/benefit for the individual patient, and even more challenging for the minors and their guardians to be in a position of an informed stance regarding these treatments,” the statement read.
Patients between the ages of 16 and 18 will still be allowed to take cross-sex hormones; however, it's recommended that the physician obtain court approval before administering those drugs. The hospital said a careful individual assessment will be done for patients already taking puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, taking into consideration each patient's degree of maturity and ability to consent.
The Society of Evidence-Based Gender Medicine called the Swedish policy change a “watershed moment.”
“Sweden’s new policy is consistent with Finland’s recently revised guidelines, which were changed to prioritize psychological interventions and support rather than medical interventions, particularly for youth with no childhood history of gender dysphoria (presently the most common presentation),” SEGM said Wednesday, noting that it's also the first country to depart from the guidance from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
“WPATH has long positioned itself as the world authority in transgender health. However, in recent months, several countries’ health authorities have conducted their own reviews of the evidence and found the evidence insufficient to justify early medical interventions promoted by WPATH’s guidelines,” the organization, which is critical of the experimental medicalization of gender, added.
The Swedish policy change comes about a year after it was reported that between 2008 and 2018, the rate of teenage girls between the ages 13 to 17 being diagnosed with gender dysphoria grew by approximately 1,500% in the Scandinavian country, according to figures from Sweden's Board of Health and Welfare.
In October 2019, an investigative news program highlighted Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, criticizing the medical facility for performing double mastectomies on trans-identifying females as young as 14.
The March announcement out of the Swedish medical center referenced the legal case of Keira Bell in England, in which the U.K. High Court of Justice ruled late last year against the London-based Tavistock gender clinic in a judicial review that decided youth younger than 16 are not mature enough to give informed consent to the experimental practices under the relevant standard in British law. Bell is a 24-year-old woman who was hormonally transitioned as a troubled teenager in the Tavistock clinic and underwent a double mastectomy as a young adult. She wound up regretting the whole gender-transition ordeal and has said that she was not capable of understanding the long-term repercussions to her health.
Youth ages 16 to 18 must first obtain a judge's approval before taking cross-sex hormones, the U.K. high court also decided. The ruling also cited the medical problems linked with puberty blockers and criticized the clinic for its poor record-keeping practices.
Sweden’s move to halt the use of puberty blockers in youth younger than 16 is the abandonment of what is known as the “Dutch protocol” heavily promoted by transgender activists, which allows for the prescribing of puberty blockers at age 12 and cross-sex hormones at 16.
According to Rocklin, California-based endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw, the first well-documented case report of a puberty-blocking drug being used in a young patient occurred in 1998 in the Netherlands. A pediatric endocrinologist, working together with a psychiatrist, decided to use Triptorelin on a 13-year-old girl suffering from gender dysphoria, he told The Christian Post in a 2018 interview about the dangers of Lupron, a hormone blocker that's being prescribed off-label for gender dysphoria sufferers despite lack of FDA approval for that purpose.
The rationale was that the patient should have the drug because the effects of going through puberty would be too traumatic to endure and that "pausing" pubertal signals in the brain would give the person more time to adjust and then later decide whether to move toward surgical transition, Laidlaw explained at the time.
The Karolinska University Hospital is a teaching hospital affiliated with Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, with two major sites in the municipalities of Solna and Huddinge. The hospital network is the second largest in Sweden after Sahlgrenska University Hospital.