The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has rejected a claim it is conducting a “national inquiry” into the “safety and ethics” of medical treatment for transgender children.
On Saturday, The Australian newspaper claimed the RACP had “agreed to do the inquiry” with the backing of Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Hunt had received a submission from a group of medical experts who oppose affirming transgender healthcare. They include former deputy president of Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party Dr John Whitehall, psychologist Professor Dianna Kenny, and Tasmanian sociologist Dr Geoff Holloway.
The submission argues against the current treatment model in Australia for transgender and gender diverse people and calls for children under 18 prevented from accessing medical treatment for gender dysphoria.
Clinical guidelines published in 2018 by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne state withholding gender-affirming treatment may exacerbate distress, depression, anxiety or suicidality in trans and gender diverse people.
Hunt referred the complaint to the RACP. He called on the College to “urgently consider and advise on the clinical best practice for the treatment of gender dysphoria in children and adolescents”.
“It is important that we have a nationally consistent standard of care that is evidence based and with appropriate safeguards to protect the interests of the patient,” Hunt wrote.
“I look forward to receiving your advice in the coming months.”
The RACP published Hunt’s letter and said it would consult “with relevant committees and expert groups” and respond.
But the body also clarified that the RACP is “primarily an educational institution and does not conduct inquiries”.
“The RACP strongly supports supportive and welcoming care for children, adolescents and adults experiencing gender dysphoria,” the College said.
“The RACP urges careful and respectful discussion of these issues in consideration of the potential impacts of public discussion on the health and wellbeing of highly vulnerable people.”
Media Watch calls The Australian’s transgender coverage
It comes after The Australian newspaper was recently panned for a new “gender” page on its website containing almost entirely negative coverage.
On Monday the ABC’s Media Watch program criticised the News Corp publication for its “one-eyed” coverage of trans issues.
Media Watch host Paul Barry pointed out many of the medical experts the newspaper quoted in the “bad journalism” lacked expertise in gender dysphoria.
But The Australian’s editor John Lehmann defended the coverage in a statement to the ABC program.
“The Australian seeks at all times to provide balance and to obtain diverse views,” Lehmann said.
“We consider it correct to report legitimate questions raised by someone whose professional qualifications are in the same general domain as the practice under scrutiny – the health of children and adolescents.”
However, the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) said the coverage ignored scientific evidence.
“We see the harm that inaccurate and biased reporting can have on these young people and their families,” AusPATH said.
“Ignoring the facts in the reporting on this issue is irresponsible. Most importantly, [it’s] not in the best interest of these young people due to the significant harm it causes.”
A 2017 Australian study of the mental health of transgender youth found high rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm.
Almost half of trans and gender diverse young people under the age of 24 had attempted suicide, the study found.
The researchers also determined the transgender youth’s mental health issues were a result of discrimination, bullying and a lack of support.
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