Alice Litman’s parents speak of ‘torture’ of trans people left on waiting lists
The grieving parents of Alice Litman, a transgender woman who is thought to have taken her own life after waiting almost three years for gender-affirming healthcare, have spoken about the “torture” trans people face while left on NHS wait lists in the UK.
An inquest into the death of the 20-year-old, from Brighton, who died in May 2022 – her family believe she took her own life after enduring a more than 1,000-day wait for an initial assessment at an NHS gender clinic – was opened on Monday (18 September).
NHS waiting times for trans healthcare have been a serious issue for the community for a long time, and have been branded “unlawful” by some.
The family have now spoken about their belief that Alice would still be alive if she had been supported by the healthcare system.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, her distraught parents, Caroline and Peter, shared their belief that their daughter had “lost hope [in the] battle” to try to get an appointment at the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Clinic, in north west London.
Litman’s mother, who worked as a psychiatrist for the NHS for 12 years, added: “It’s torture to be left on the wait list, to be left hanging [on] for so long with no end in sight and no power and no control over your destiny.”
In an interview with Sky News, the couple said their daughter’s death should be a wake-up call. “Transgender people are hung out to dry,” they claimed.
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“Alice was a smart, intelligent young person and she could see that no one was taking care of her, and no one cared.”
“My daughter was failed by the NHS and I don’t want other parents to lose their daughter, and for other children to lose their sister, the way that our family has done,” she said, according to a BBC report.
At the age of 16, Alice Litman told her family she wanted to be a woman, and was referred to the NHS Gender Identity Development Service in 2019, but was kept on a waiting list for 1,023 days for a first appointment.
In 2019, was also referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services following a suicide bid. She was discharged the following year, the inquest was told, despite a second attempt to take her own life.
Peter Litman said of the long wait: “It’s kind of an act of aggression. If you know something’s there and you do nothing about it, it’s not a neutral act. It’s quite deliberate.”
On Wednesday (20 September), coroner Sarah Clarke said: “It seems to me that all of these services are underfunded and insufficiently resourced for the level of need that the society we live in now presents.”
At the hearing, The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, and Alice Litman’s GP, WellBN, accepted there was a delay but said there was no denial of life-saving emergency treatment.
The head of the gender identity clinic told the court that the number of transgender people needing gender-affirming healthcare was an “order of magnitude” greater than they could provide.
According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for The Tavistock said: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of a patient who was waiting to be seen at our gender identity clinic and offer our condolences to her loved ones.”
Information uncovered from a freedom of information request last year has suggested a 35-year waiting time for trans people seeking gender-affirming care.
The coroner said she would be writing to various NHS bodies to recommend ways of preventing future deaths. Adjourning the hearing, she added that she would deliver a narrative conclusion in two weeks’ time.
Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
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