Suicide fears from Scottish Council on Human Bioethics over changing gender The Sunday Times 10.02.19

The original article is here.

Scottish ethics experts have warned that people who go through irreversible gender reassignment surgery could be at greater risk of suicide in later life.

As ministers consider steps to make it easier for children and adults to change gender, the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) said it is concerned about a study of 300 people from Sweden who completed biological sex reassignment surgery over 50 years.

The 2014 research concluded that the procedure can lead to psychiatric problems and poor socialising, and that there were higher risks of mortality, suicidal behaviour and psychiatric morbidity.

In a submission to the Scottish government, the SCHB — an independent group of doctors, lawyers, scientists and others associated with medical ethics — noted the research found a link between reassignment surgery and increased suicide risk later.

The group said the study did not prove the operation was to blame, but noted “a significant minority” of transsexuals express regret after irreversible surgery, and that some revert to living in their original sex.

Three patients in Belgium who had biological sex reassignment asked later for their lives to end through euthanasia as a result of “unbearable mental or physical suffering”, the SCHB warns ministers.

A 44-year-old transsexual identified as a girl at birth was given voluntary euthanasia in Belgium after failed sex-change operations resulted in permanent depression.

Much of the research by the SCHB has centred on gender dysphoria, where a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

Dr Calum MacKellar, the SCHB’s director of research, urged the Scottish government to avoid changing the Gender Recognition Act without more research.

“Irreversible gender reassignment surgery should take place only after the person seeking to undergo it has had an extensive and appropriate psychological assessment followed by counselling. It is only when the person is fully informed of all the advantages and risks that he or she can fully give informed consent,” said MacKellar.

“Those affected by gender dysphoria should not become victims of political agendas.”

At the end of last year, the Scotland’s government took a step closer to being the first in the UK to recognise a third gender, after complaints that trans people endure a long and demeaning process to prove their gender identity.

Last week Leslie Evans, Scotland’s top civil servant, urged “privileged” non-transgender people to recognise how easy it is for them to access healthcare.

The Scottish government said it is considering the next steps following its consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.