The history of medicine is riddled with tragic mistakes.  

Up and down the ages, widely accepted treatments like bleeding, purging, and mercury poisoning have often been vastly worse for the patient than the original ailment. And harmful, ill-conceived therapies like these are not consigned to the pre-scientific past.  

Long after the medical arts were (supposedly) made rigorous through application of the scientific method and a firm reliance on empiricism, doctors jumping on the latest therapeutic bandwagon continued to perform little-scrutinized and fashionable “remedies” that remedied nothing but caused significant harm to their patients.

The lobotomy procedure, for instance, was commonly used to treat schizophrenics well into the 1960’s. Introducing a sharp pick through the back of the eye socket and into the frontal lobe of the brain quieted the patients, but left them apathetic, distant, and unable to concentrate — if they survived.   

We now shudder at the thought of the macabre procedure that erased the subjects’ personalities, and that these days we see performed only in horror films.  

Today we feel a great pity for the hapless patients of the past, but the doctor who popularized lobotomies received the Nobel Prize and was widely hailed. It took many years and many tragedies for lobotomies to slowly fall out of favor. 

Keeping this kind of historical perspective is crucial when new and fashionable “cures” sweep the culture, especially when they become not only typical but de rigueur. Today’s standard-of-care treatment for children suffering from gender dysphoria is a case in point. 

These young people are extremely vulnerable, experiencing sky-high rates of depression and suicide, and most of them, if supported appropriately, will eventually stop identifying with the opposite sex. 

Currently, young patients who feel uncomfortable with their biological sex will receive “gender-affirmative therapy,” in which their understanding of themselves as being the opposite sex is supported, not challenged. 

Clothes, haircuts, and names are easily changed and easily changed back, but hormonal and surgical alterations intended to change the physical appearance of the sufferer are drastic and often irrevocable.

These interventions are being done at increasingly younger ages, even to the point of blocking normal puberty of 11- and 12-year-olds so that characteristics like breasts and facial hair will not develop. Cross-sex hormones follow soon after, causing permanent alteration of bone structure and height, as well as lifelong infertility. 

At the age of 18 (and younger in Europe), mastectomies, genital amputations, and reconstructive surgeries are performed, adding trauma upon trauma.  

The incidence of gender dysphoria in children is rising sharply, and early hormonal “affirming” interventions are generally the only therapy made available to parents. This is so even though its advocates have not proven that they are safe, prudent, or efficacious through scientific studies and empirical evidence.  

Instead, support is based on the subjective judgments of therapists and doctors. These are, in fact, experimental treatments, performed on patients who can’t consent, and in an unsystematic and haphazard manner.

For parents who would like to give their child a chance of outgrowing their gender dysphoria using conservative therapy and without harming their bodies with puberty blockers and hormones, treatment is hard to find. 

Unfortunately for the young people and their parents, the medical and psychological river of opinion is flowing strongly the other way, at least right now. In many ways it’s not really about each child’s psychosocial suffering.  

It’s about bigger picture things like sexual ideology and the affirmation of the individual will, even when the individuals are very young and confused. Sexual ideology and even politics have pushed caution and conservative approaches out the window. 

There are even laws in 14 states and the District of Columbia that make it a crime to counsel a teenager or the parent of a child to try conservative therapy before turning to hormones or surgery. Yes — laws against conservative therapy.  

No one can blame parents for listening to the doctors who advise “transition.” Any more than we can blame the families of schizophrenics who were told that their loved ones’ suffering could only be cured by the severing of neural connections in the frontal cortex.  

In our own extended family we have a young cousin suffering from gender dysphoria, only 15 years old, who is well down the road of transition.  

Her mother and father have been told that the mutilation of her body and the loss of the possibility of having children in the future are unavoidable side effects of the only therapy for her condition. All they want is for their little girl to stop suffering and for the specter of suicide to go away. Who can blame them for taking professional advice?

Lobotomies finally fell out of favor with the development of antipsychotic drugs. The poisoning of syphilitics with mercury likewise ended when the miracle of penicillin broke upon the scene.

We look back now and pity those who suffered in the past out of ignorance and obliviousness.  But it would be more useful to look around us today. Fashionable treatments are resulting in tragedies all around us, and their victims are children.    

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, coming to the U.S. at the age of 11. She has written for USA TODAY, National Review, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, Telemundo, Fox News, and EWTN. She practices radiology in the Miami area, where she lives with her husband and five children.

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