Health body says ‘The Australian’ reporting on trans treatment is biased

The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) has raised concern over recent reporting on transgender health by News Corp.

The leading health organisation for the treatment of people who are transgender labeled stories in The Australian newspaper as being biased, emotive and not based on fact.

“Our organisation is concerned that the recent reporting in The Australian newspaper regarding health care provided to TGD children and adolescents is biased, emotive and is not based on fact.

“The reporting ignores available scientific evidence which strongly endorses supporting transgender children through social and medical transition to improve their mental health outcomes.” ther health body said in a statement.

AusPATH was established in 2009 and is Australia’s peak body for professionals involved in the health, rights and well-being of trans, gender diverse and non-binary (TGD) people.

The AusPATH membership comprises approximately 250 experienced professionals working across Australia. They argue that the assertions put forward by the newspaper regarding the mental health of people who are transgender are off the mark.

“It is well recognised that these poor mental health outcomes are not inherent to being transgender but are due to TGD individuals experiencing high levels of stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, family rejection, bullying, harassment and assaults.

The organisation says the affirmative care model that is recognised around the world has stood up to academic scrutiny.

“The evidence for an affirmative model of care has been publicly scrutinised in Australia through both academic and legal processes at the highest level and is currently standard clinical practice not only in Australia but in New Zealand, USA, Europe and across many other countries and regions across the globe.”

The Australian’s columnist Jennifer Oriel is one of the people calling for an government inquiry into the Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Transgender and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents. 

The columnist has written several pieces critical of younger people experiencing gender dysphoria are treated. On Tuesday Oriel appeared on the the Sky News program Credlin and said she had studied the treatment guidelines used by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and was not satisfied they were scientifically sound.

“How is this harm being allowed in Australia, why are we so complacent about it? Why are people not caring that this is happening to kids, I think we should demand a national inquiry. We need to know how this is  possibly allowed in a modern nation like Australia.” Oriel said.

AusPATH have responded saying the guidelines have stood up to academic scrutiny.

“In 2017, AusPATH endorsed the Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Transgender and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents. This guideline is a collaboration of approximately 50 clinicians and researchers across Australia and NZ and is based on empirical scientific evidence and expert clinical consensus. This was peer reviewed and published in the Medical Journal of Australia in June 2018. Later that month it was again reviewed and endorsed through an editorial in The Lancet.

In that editorial The Lancet said “children and adolescents with gender dysphoria often experience stigma, bullying, and abuse, resulting in high rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and self-harm. But with supportive, gender-affirming management, as laid out by the Australian guidelines, these consequences can be minimised.”

AUsPATH also highlight that the guidelines have already stood up to legal scrutiny as well

“The Full Bench of the Family Court of Australia has twice reviewed the academic and clinical evidence for medical intervention in TGD adolescents through Re Jamie (2013) and Re Kelvin (2017). In Re Kelvin, evidence was submitted to the Full Bench of the Family Court from clinicians supporting the care for TGD children and adolescents as well as from those who oppose medical intervention.

“Overwhelmingly, the scientific evidence submitted to the Court and taken into evidence demonstrated that medical intervention not only improves mental health outcomes, but saves lives by reducing suicide. The Full Court decision removed the legal process from medical decisions to assist with improved access to affirming care, thereby improving mental health outcomes.

“The Royal Commission into Victorian Mental Health Services undertaken in July 2019 also heard expert evidence through cross examination and written submissions from current AusPATH members. It is clear that the facts related to the gender affirming care of TGD people have had ample opportunity for public scrutiny.

“Whilst the evidence for affirming practice demonstrates improvements in mental health outcomes, there is also extensive evidence that psychological practices, such as conversion or reparative therapies which deny social and medical interventions, lack efficacy, are considered unethical and cause significant harm to the health and well-being of TGD people, and their families.” Aus PATH said.

The health organisation says inaccurate and biased reporting in the media can have serious harm on young people being treated for gender dysphoria and their families.

“Ignoring the facts in the reporting on this issue is irresponsible and, most importantly, not in the best interest of these young people due to the significant harm it causes.” the organisation said.

The statement was signed by the entire board of the organisation which includes  Associate Professor Michelle Telfer – Paediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Physician, Dr Jaco Erasmus – Psychiatrist, Dr Belinda Chaplin – University Lecturer in Nursing, Andrew Ives – Plastic Surgeon, Dr Fiona Bisshop – General Practitioner and Rainer Jardin – Clinical Psychologist.

The statement follows an apology from Australian Senior the Year, Dr Suzanne Packer. The esteemed child abuse advocate had endorsed a paper critical of the current treatment approach that was sent to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Yesterday Dr Packer offered an apology for the distress her endorsement had caused for young people experiencing gender dysphoria and their families.

Responding to OUTinPerth, The Australian’s managing editor, Helen Trinca, said that the paper’s reporting on this issue is objective, factual and accurate.

Graeme Watson

UPDATE: 15-08-19 14:09 Comment from The Australian added.  

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