Thu Oct 26th, 2006 at 09:33:14 AM EST
Psychiatrist rushed me into having sex change, says patient
This is a story in today's Guardian
A former patient of the UK's best-known expert on transsexualism yesterday told an inquiry that she bitterly regrets changing sex and feels unable to live as either a man or a woman........................................
The patient told the panel she blamed Dr Reid for her unhappiness and gender confusion, claiming he had failed to investigate her history of severe depression, which included attempting to kill herself in a car crash, before approving her sex change. ............................
But the patient said the consultant psychiatrist never addressed these issues, nor obtained a second opinion. She had been an occasional cross dresser when she was a man, but had enjoyed a normal sex life with her two ex-wives. She said Dr Reid prescribed her with sex changing hormones at her first appointment and never checked that she was living full-time as a woman prior to her surgery in 1989. The sex change "fantasy" was shattered two days after the surgery when her father died, and she began to feel "ashamed"of what she had done.
The GMC is investigating a charge of serious professional misconduct against Dr Reid relating to five of his ex-patients, including Patient B. He is accused of breaching international guidelines on treatment of gender disorders by rushing patients into sex changing treatments.
Okay, full confession. Dr Reid was my psychiatrist too. So what I say in response to this story must pass through the filter of acknowledged bias.
As the title of this piece says, nobody holds a gun to your head and makes you have a sex change. You do it of your own free adult will. Contrary to what the proponents of the NHS scheme of testing their subjects under extreme social duress might claim, there is no test that can tell if you are genuinely transgendered. Nobody can apply any measure; technological, physiological or psychiatric that says "yes you are" or "no, you're not". Whatever they say, finally you have to take the patient's word that what they feel is true.
So, when this person says that Dr Reid handed her a prescription for hormones at their first meeting that would be true ; it happened to me too. That's the breach of international guidelines referred to above. They are called the Harry Benjamin protocols and describe "best practice". And they suggest that patients should live as a woman for three months before hormones are administered, certainly that is the regime adhered to by the NHS.
Personally I think the idea is monstrous, but my objections are so many and numerous that it would dilute the point of this diary.
However, Dr Reid uses hormones as a diagnostic tool. I had been experiencing a form of mental torture all my life, something akin to chinese water torture in the centre of my brain ever since puberty. Witihin six weeks of taking the hormones this sensation melted away like snow in spring. For the first time in my life I was able to look around and know that this was how normal people felt all the time.
Naturally when I saw Dr Reid at my nest appointment I mentioned this and he said that 70% of people to whom he gives a prescription never return, but of those who did, the overwhelming majority reported similar reactions to me. So, it seemed to me that Dr Reid had hit upon a diagnostic tool ignored and indeed disparaged by mainstream practitioners.
He worked in the private sector where, let's be honest, you pays your money and takes your choice and you only get what you pay for. I didn't pay for in-depth counselling, so I never got it. I have no idea whether it was offered to others, but I never sought it and so it was never offered. I'm not saying he was right in this, he had a pretty stark idea of duty of care and even I felt that it seemed to end on the line where the cheque got signed. The whole area is open to debate on both sides to be honest, but to criticise Reid on this is to ignore the greater problem.
So maybe some didn't get the care they needed, but they got what they wanted, or at least what they paid Dr Reid for. That's called private medicine. Life is not risk free and those of us who venture on the gender changing path do so knowing that there are several points on the journey from which there is no way back: Most especially the main operation itself. You sign forms agreeing that you understand what you are doing. You do so as an adult taking responsibility for youself. Dr Reid may have made it easy for the self-delusional to get an operation, but there is no system that is foolproof. If you really want to do this and can learn to lie to doctors, counsellors and, most especially, to yourself then you can get the operation, whatever system of checks is applied.
But it's for keeps. I simply do not understand why this person is complaining. Transgenderism is the only self-diagnosed condition as absolutely nobody can argue with you if you've convinced yourself. But self-diagnosis means you have to take responsibility for the consequences. And suing after the fact cos you were wrong seems pointless to me.
I feel sorry that they have come to regret this decision in their lives, but they entered into it of their own free will. It isn't Dr Reid's fault they did so and nothing he nor others could have done would have changed that. I hope they lose and lose big.