‘Would you rather a dead daughter or a living son?’ debunked by Finnish study

It’s a question so commonly encountered by parents seeking help for their gender-dysphoric child that it’s almost become a meme — and a morbid one at that.

On the surface, “Would you rather a dead daughter or a living son?” sounds like a plea for compassion and understanding.

Functionally, however, this appeal shuts down all public debate, stifles any pushback from parents, and places vulnerable youth on a conveyor belt towards risky hormone treatments and radical surgical interventions.

Now, it is a question whose twin premises have been debunked — by one of the most substantial studies ever undertaken on the subject.


Published in January, the BMJ Mental Health research paper found both that gender dysphoria does not place youth at a higher risk of suicide, and that so-called “gender-affirming care” does not alleviate suicide risk in the youth who seek it out.

The study took place in Finland, one of many Northern European countries still detoxing from the heady days of the ‘Dutch Protocol’.

Researchers analysed comprehensive data sets from national health registers, identifying over 2,000 individuals (with a median age of 18.5 years) experiencing gender distress in the years 1996 to 2019.

Unlike similar studies that lose many patients in the process of follow-up, the use of national registers meant the entire cohort could be followed throughout their period of treatment, which lasted an average of six years.

The research team created a control group by matching each subject to four male and four female peers from an equivalent age bracket and municipality of birth, for a total of over 16,000 control subjects.

While researchers found higher rates of both suicide mortality and all-cause mortality among the gender-distressed youth, once their psychiatric treatment history was taken into account, those differences evaporated.

“Gender dysphoria per se does not seem to predict neither all-cause nor suicide mortality in gender-referred adolescents,” the researchers concluded.

The “main predictor of mortality in this population is psychiatric morbidity,” they note.

“Medical gender reassignment does not have an impact on suicide risk.”


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Elaborating further, they explain:

In this nationally representative, register-based, long-term, follow-up study, the all-cause mortality of gender-referred adolescents did not statistically significantly differ from that of matched population controls. Suicide mortality first appeared to be much higher among gender-referred participants; however, the association was fully explained by psychiatric treatment history. All-cause and suicide mortalities did not differ between those gender referred who had and had not proceeded to GR [gender reassignment: masculinising/feminising hormonal treatments, mastectomies and/or genital surgery] when psychiatric treatment history was accounted for.

“This does not support the claims that GR is necessary in order to prevent suicide,” the research team concluded.

Harm prevention

Australian journalist Bernard Lane, editor of Gender Clinic News, is one of the most authoritative sources on gender medicine, according to Mercator’s Michael Cook.

Lane has dubbed the new Finnish paper “landmark research” in a field dominated by “low-quality anonymous online self-report surveys with no follow-up checks, potential exaggeration driven by a constant ‘transition or suicide’ narrative, and ‘convenience samples’ unlikely to be representative”. He writes:

The new Finnish study vindicates that countrys 2020 adoption of a more cautious treatment policy which first targets psychiatric, social and educational problems among gender-distressed youth before any assumption of a stable trans identity justifying “experimental” affirmation with hormones or surgery.

Lane took particular interest in the involvement of psychiatrist Riittakerttu Kaltiala in the latest Finnish study.

Kaltiala “helped pioneer paediatric gender medicine in Finland,” Lane explains, “but became concerned when she and her colleagues did not see the good outcomes promised by the internationally imitated ‘Dutch protocol’ of puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones and surgery”.

Separate to the Finnish study, television celebrity Dr Phil appeared in an interview with Joe Rogan last week, in which he came out swinging against all things “gender-affirming care”.

“I thought the deal was first do no harm,” Dr Phil told his host.

“I have never seen [all the major medical] organisations sign off on anything with less information as to whether or not it does long-term harm in my life.”

Everywhere you look, the “trans surgery or suicide” schtick is on its last legs.

Australia and America, take note.

There couldn’t be better news for gender-confused children, who in the years to come will finally be able to access the care they really need.

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.

Image: Pexels


Showing 3 reactions

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  • mrscracker
    I’ve read that another rationale is a parent who’d rather have a female presenting child than a homosexual son. Or visa versa.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-02-26 16:38:40 +1100
    Did the studies take into account bullying by the children’s peers? Because that is frequently a contributing factor in many suicides.
  • Kurt Mahlburg
    published this page in The Latest 2024-02-26 15:34:11 +1100