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Great Ormond Street Hospital 'failing' intersex children

From BBC - October 12, 2017

Great Ormond Street Hospital is not meeting care standards for intersex children, a BBC investigation says.

It found that some patients who had been born with sexual development disorders, and their families, had no access to psychological care.

And not all cases were properly discussed before the patient had life changing, irreversible surgery.

Health regulator CQC is investigating. The hospital said it was committed to working with seriously ill children.

Intersex, also known as disorders of sexual development (DSD), is when sex characteristics - including genitals, reproductive organs and chromosome patterns - do not fit into the typical notions of female or male bodies.

The BBC has learned that at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH):

Over the last decade, standards and guidelines say DSD cases should be discussed by specialist teams of experts, to ensure the best possible outcome. They also say that it is crucial that families and children should be seen by a psychologist.

Prof Ieuan Hughes, emeritus professor of paediatrics at the University of Cambridge and an expert in hormone disorders told the BBC that DSD was a "very complicated area of medicine".

He said it was vital families got support from a psychologist prior to making decisions about surgery, so parents were fully aware of the life long-implications on children.

When asked by the BBC if surgery should continue in hospitals not meeting the national standards, Prof Hughes said: "It seems reasonable to me to just take a pause, get the problem sorted and get back on track as soon as possible."

'I went to bed a boy and woke up a girl'

When Joe Holliday was born in 1988 it was not clear if he was a boy or a girl.

During development in the womb his genitals did not fully form and he was born with a large hole in his abdomen.

The 29-year-old says specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital told his mother he would be better being a girl, because it was easier surgically and he would not handle being a man without male genitalia.

On Joe's first birthday, his mother put him to bed and the next day brought him up as Joella. As advised by the medical team, she changed all his clothes from blue to pink overnight.

He featured in a BBC documentary in 1998, when he was 10 years old, which followed his family's legal fight to get him recognised as a girl on his birth certificate.

But from 10 years old onward, Joella suffered with depression and anxiety. He self-harmed and attempted suicide.

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What is intersex?

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