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Bad medicine

Psychiatrist pressured five patients into radical sex changes after one office visit

Friday, October 20, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: bad medicine, sex changes, psychiatry


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(NewsTarget) A London psychiatrist is before a medical tribunal facing allegations of breaching Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association guidelines by rushing patients into sex-change operations and suggesting they pay for the surgery by working as escorts.

Russel Reid, who was also accused of serious professional misconduct and prescribing hormone therapy to four patients after single hour-long consultations each, denies the charges.

Five patients who visited his Earls Court clinic, The London Institute, as well as four psychiatrists from the Charing Cross Hospital Gender Identity Clinic -- where Reid worked one day a week -- are making the accusations.

One female patient claims she had both of her breasts removed even before Reid had obtained a required second opinion for the procedure, and another female patient said that Reid dismissed her concerns about her treatment as "nitpicking."

One woman testified to the tribunal that, after Reid gave approval for her to be changed from a man to a woman, she was stuck in "gender limbo." A health professional stated in a letter that the woman had said, "I don't know who I am any more."

"We submit Dr. Reid has consistently jeopardized the safety of his patients, in particular by prescribing to them irreversible hormones to help change their gender without appropriate assessment and physical checks," said Richard Tyson, representative of the four psychiatrists and one of the patients. "Dr. Reid has repeatedly failed to follow several of the minimal requirements for the treatment of patients who are considered to be, or are en route to be, transsexual.

"The consequences of the failure to follow such minimal requirements have been devastating to many of the patients. The Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic has, on a number of occasions, had to pick up the pieces."

According to the Benjamin guidelines, patients considering a sex change must have been unhappy with their current gender for more than two years, and a psychiatrist other than the primary psychiatrist in the case must give a second opinion before patients undergo the operation. Then, patients must have lived as their chosen gender for a year, and give informed consent, before the surgery is carried out.

"Essentially, the complainants' case is that (Reid) gives patients what they want and when they want, it, and these patients are known to be a particularly demanding type. In the case of four of the five patients, Dr. Reid prescribed hormones at the first consultation and often with no referral letter from their GP," Tyson said.

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