Man sues NHS for trans surgery he regrets bravely giving up anonymity to share his ordeal
Pictured: Ritchie Herron says he was fast-tracked by the NHS for life-changing surgery
For Ritchie Herron, a brilliant and eloquent civil servant from Newcastle, life over the past four years has become almost unbearable. It takes him ten minutes to empty his bladder, a painful and slow process. All libido is long gone. In fact, he says, his crotch is numb, “shocked” at the damage done to him in apparent NHS custody.
“Numb” rather encapsulates all of Ritchie’s behavior as he struggles to understand what happened to him. Today he reveals – in an exclusive interview – that he is the man plotting legal action against the NHS over an operation that removed his genitals.
Ritchie’s case came to light last week when he posted about his experience on Twitter under a handle, TullipR. Her brief testimony, which was picked up by the Daily Mail, was as shocking as it was damning for NHS ‘gender clinics’ which help people change their sex.
Struggling with mental health issues – and after decades of suppressing her gayness – Ritchie, 35, had thought the answer was to become a woman. But instead, he says, he was sped up to make “the biggest mistake of his life” and was left sterile, incontinent and in continuous pain.
Not only did the NHS clinic fail to consider his spiraling mental health crisis, he claims, but they also failed to properly advise him on the risks.
Ritchie has decided to waive his anonymity to tell the story of his ordeal in full, detail the physical and mental scars he left – and warn that there are others like him ready to sue. in court for the operation which they bitterly regret.
Her account raises serious questions about the safeguards in place at NHS gender clinics, which have seen a 1,700% increase in referrals over the past ten years, mostly from children and young adults.
The speed at which Ritchie – who lived as a woman called Abby – was diagnosed and then referred for irreversible surgery is in itself troubling.
In fact, he says, he had repeatedly refused the procedure and expressed deep concerns to clinic staff about having it.
His case, he thinks, could trigger a wave of new claims.
Pictured: Ritchie dressed in women’s clothes and passed by ‘Abby’ before his operation
“It’s an avalanche waiting,” he told the Mail on Sunday. “The transition is now sold to people on a large scale. It’s like PPI, but more sinister.
“In a few years, I’m sure law firms will be asking people if they’ve made the transition and would like to claim compensation.”
According to Ritchie, no professional explored whether mental health issues might have led him to believe he was trans.
Today, he is one of a growing number of “de-transitioners”, living like a man again and mourning his “mistake”. Much of his confusion was about accepting he was gay, he now acknowledges.
Ritchie says he buried his sexuality, which left him with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, using repetitive behaviors to mask his unhappiness.
Then, in his twenties, he came across the idea of gender dysphoria in an internet discussion forum. Older men on the forum have convinced the vulnerable young man that he “must be trans”.
At that time, for Ritchie, it felt like a light bulb moment. After a series of breakdowns, he decided in 2012 to call on a professional.
He was referred to a psychologist, who did not dissuade him from the idea that he had gender dysphoria, and then to the Northern Region Gender Dysphoria Service, run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
Pictured: Ritchie Herron as a young boy
The waiting list for appointments was long but, engrossed in the idea, Ritchie took out a payday loan to pay for an appointment at a private gender clinic in March 2014.
According to Ritchie, he was diagnosed with “transsexualism” after just two 30-minute dates.
A psychiatrist recommended that she take medication to block her testosterone production – the first step towards sex change.
The only attempt at a brake came from a close family member, who came with him to the appointment at the clinic. Ritchie says: “She told the doctor I was on a high dose of antidepressants and had a lot of complex issues, and yet they were referring me for gender treatment.”
So why did Ritchie agree? “I was 26,” he says, “but I was very vulnerable.”
He began living full-time as Abby, dressing in women’s clothing. The testosterone suppressing drugs meant he was starting to develop breasts. In March 2015, he was attending appointments at the NHS Gender Clinic in Newcastle.
“The first question you get asked there is, ‘Do you want genital surgery? “‘ he said. ‘I wasn’t sure. But I had heard that you could go to therapy if you were on the waiting list for an operation, so I said yes.
The clinic – which will not comment on Ritchie’s specific case – told the MoS it does not provide mental health services to patients.
Less than six months later, in July 2015, Ritchie received a referral for vaginoplasty surgery. Ritchie says he told the psychiatrist he wasn’t sure and declined, but continued to seek therapy.
In 2017 he received another referral for surgery, to be performed at Nuffield Health Hospital in Brighton but paid for by the NHS. Ritchie again refused – but says he was told that if he did not accept the recommendation he would be fired from the service.
It sent him into a “free fall”, he recalls. He thought this meant his therapy would also be cut off, which had been a “lifesaver”. He had recently admitted that he felt suicidal.
At 10 a.m. on May 23, 2018, Ritchie was taken to the operating room. “I haven’t even seen the surgeon,” he says. “I was really in the mindset of ‘I’m here now, there’s no stopping it even if I wanted to. ‘
The irreversible operation involves removing the penis and testicles and reforming the area to resemble female genitalia.
For eight days he remained in a haze of painkillers. His first thought as he regained his lucidity was, “Oh my God, what have I done?
Ritchie is now planning legal action against Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust. His lawyer, Peter Harthan, said patients like Ritchie faced “a lifetime of medical care and consequences” and “cannot be put back together”.
He adds: “My concern is that clinicians have failed to identify red flags and change direction. Particular attention should be paid to issues such as OCD, internalized homophobia, depression, drug use, sexual abuse, and childhood trauma as potential reasons why patients reject their gendered bodies.
In a statement, the Trust said it could not comment on an individual, but added: “Care plans are collaborative and tailored to each patient’s needs and goals, and treatment decisions are made at the following a thorough assessment in accordance with national recommendations.”
Ritchie says, “I’m proof that the whole system needs to become much more robust. How many other people like me are there?