Hospital apologises to rape survivor for branding her request for same-sex breast-screening medic as transphobic

Posted On 09 Dec 2019 at 2:33 pm


The NHS trust which runs the Royal Sussex has apologised to a rape survivor for including her letter requesting a female-born medic for a breast-screening appointment as an example of transphobia.

Gay rights campaigner Clare Dimyon, 54, went to the hospital just before Christmas last year for the mammogram, and wrote a letter requesting a natal female.

In August, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust published its new trans policy – and included the letter as an example of “highly discriminatory” correspondence from patients which should be referred to the hospital’s equality diversity and inclusion team.

Both her details and the fact that the letter was written in connection with an intimate procedure had been edited out.

The Spearhead

Ms Dimyon told The Sunday Times: “We have an examination which involves clinicians handling your breasts and placing them on a mammography table in order for those pictures to be taken.

“Even on the door they say ‘gentlemen stay outside’, meaning husbands and partners, I suppose, because they recognise this is an intimate examination.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Sussex said: “We are very sorry for any offence or upset caused by the inclusion of these letters in our equality and diversity guidance and have now removed them.

“Patient care is always our top priority and we recognise that for some patients having clinicians of the same gender is important, particularly if an intimate procedure is required.

“We always work hard to try to meet these wishes and where possible will offer the presence of a same-sex chaperone or the rescheduling of an appointment if we cannot.

“However, it is not possible to guarantee to any patient that they will only be treated by a clinician assigned to a specific gender at birth and, as an organisation that prides itself on our commitment to diversity and inclusion, nor would we wish to do so.

“It is also important that patients see the clinician most skilled to deal with their medical concern. We recognise our employees by the gender they identify as on a daily basis as it is essential that we respect the gender identity of all our staff. 

“Additionally, we have a duty to apply the same principles here as we would if a patient requested clinicians from particular backgrounds/ethnicities or any of the nine characteristics protected by law.”

The case was also raised by University of Sussex philosopher Kathleen Stock, who is part of the A Woman’s Place campaign to preserve same sex spaces for women.

She said: “It’s good that the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust have taken down private patient correspondence, including from a rape survivor, though they should never had it up there in the first place.

“If a female rape survivor consents only to see a female clinician, then this is not an example of discrimination, but a reasonable thing to want in light of her history, and it’s appalling that the trust still doesn’t seem to understand this.

“They talk in their response of ‘diversity and Inclusion’ but it seems they are not interested in thinking about the particular needs of rape survivors in this case.”

  1. Catherine Folkes Reply

    That is appalling. Of course a woman would want intimate care from another woman. Sex matters, gender is irrelevant.

  2. Delia Morris Reply

    What I think is really horrible, a hospital used a patients personal correspondence to them, as a teaching tool. With a mammogram, we strip down to our waist..it actually to me feels more vulnerable than a smear procedure and it last a lot longer as a procedure. I hope all medical people remember the patient is the priority here, not current politics.

  3. Jean Taylor Reply

    It’s an abuse of women’s rights if woman has to be a survivor of rape to request a female born medical woman to tend to her needs; every women suffers sexual assault and harassment in the world in one form or another and when it comes to intimate medical procedures like mammograms or Pap smear tests it’s a woman’s right to be treated by a female born woman practitioner if that’s her request and it’s up to the medical facility to meet that request without forcing a woman to have a male born medical staff member of whatever gender to do the procedure.

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