The UK's only children's gender identity development service (GIDS), run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, is to be sued by "at least a thousand families" who allege that their children were rushed into taking life-changing puberty blocking drugs. As a result they were facing "physical and psychological permanent scarring that will last the rest of these victims’ lifetimes", alleged the law firm involved.
The action follows last month’s announcement by the NHS that the clinic would be closed over safety concerns. That in turn followed a highly critical independent review by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, which concluded in its interim report that a single specialist provider was "not a safe or viable long-term option" and noted concerns about GIDS' lack of peer review. Care of 'gender questioning' youngsters – whose numbers have "risen exponentially" since 2011 - is instead to be allocated to a network of regional hospitals.
Lawyers Pursing Group Claim for Criminal Negligence
The group medical negligence claim alleges vulnerable children were misdiagnosed, recklessly prescribed puberty blockers with harmful side effects, placing them on a damaging medical pathway, and that GIDS had multiply failed in its duty of care to the children.
The families are represented by law firm Pogust Goodhead, which specialises in large-scale group litigation, and whose motto is 'Making the world a better place one case at a time'. Lisa Lunt, head of product liability, said: "One of the most important tests we consider when looking at taking on cases is if there is a tangible and real loss, harm or impact on claimants.
"One such case of huge public importance that we are now actively pursuing is a group claim for clinical negligence against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (amongst other third parties) for their failures in their duty of care towards young children and adolescents.
"While the provision of gender dysphoria treatment for children and young adolescents, where appropriate, is an important service, many have been let down by Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.
"We support the findings of the Cass review interim report and believe there has been a real level of harm that has been perpetrated towards patients who were rushed into taking life altering puberty blockers without adequate consideration or proper diagnosis".
The Cass review had noted that some staff at GIDS had felt "under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach" to children presenting with gender dysphoria, and that this was "at odds with the standard process of clinical assessment and diagnosis" in all other clinical encounters.
The interim review said that it was not at that time able to provide advice on the use of hormone treatments, which had already been subject to prolonged court action after a legal case brought by a child given puberty blockers before age 16 who subsequently decided to 'detransition'.
Pogust Goodhead said that since the interim review was published: "A number of service attendees have spoken publicly about their concerns that they were misdiagnosed. Those that had taken masculinising or feminising hormones are now left to live with the irreversible and life-changing consequences."
Pogust Goodhead Global Managing Partner Tom Goodhead told Sky News: "We believe that there are potentially hundreds of young adults who have been affected by failings in care over the past decade at the Tavistock Centre, and we want to be able to give them a voice in court.
"Children and young adolescents were rushed into treatment without the appropriate therapy and involvement of the right clinicians, meaning that they were misdiagnosed," he said.
Mr Goodhead told the i that the group claim over "the efficacy of the treatment" could run into millions of pounds. In a statement from the firm today he said: "We must not shut down debate on account of a fear of discussing gender identity and those responsible must be held accountable. We anticipate that at least 1000 clients will join this action. It is vital that those children and young adolescents have access to justice. That is why we are taking this case."
A spokesperson for the firm told MedscapeUK that the claim was "likely to be filed in the next few months" and that the expert witnesses likely to be called in support will be announced in due course.
Pogust Goodhead is asking anyone with concerns about the treatment they received at GIDS to get in touch.
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