A British doctor is being suspended from work after sending tweets found to be “insulting” and “inappropriate” to people who opposed his pro-trans rights views.
Speaking exclusively to VICE World News following the end of his tribunal hearing, Dr Adrian Harrop said the whole experience has been “mortifying”, but he’s now “more committed than ever before to making sure trans people can access healthcare.”
The 34-year-old said: “Having my personal life, actions, professionalism, and personality debated on a public stage has been horrendous. It’s been humiliating and embarrassing, but I am coming out of this stronger and more determined.”
Over the past two weeks, Harrop, a GP from Liverpool, has faced a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing following complaints about his conduct on Twitter. He was accused of using his account between May 2018 and November 2019 to post tweets that were “offensive and/or insulting and/or inappropriate in nature”. The case was brought by the General Medical Council, which effectively regulates medical practitioner standards in the UK.
The tribunal could have potentially ended with Harrop having his name erased from the medical register, which would have barred him from practising medicine. However, he will now be able to resume his work as a GP in Liverpool, and return to his job providing trans healthcare, after completing the one-month suspension.
Several of Harrop’s tweets, seen by VICE World News, were sent in response to homophobic and transphobic posts he received, as well as some death threats.
One of the tweets deemed “highly offensive” by the tribunal involved Harrop calling a woman who vocally opposes trans rights “a venomous transphobic bigot”, whose aim was to “demonise trans people” while “excluding them from public life”.
VICE World News was present throughout the hearing which found that Harrop’s fitness to practise medicine is currently “impaired”, however, as repeatedly stated by the MPTS tribunal chair, Nicholas Flanagan, “there are no patient safety concerns in this case.”
The doctor’s case has been the subject of heated debate, both across social media and in-person at the hearing. VICE World News spoke to some of the self-described “gender atheists” present, some of whom took time off work, missed birthdays and “drove over five hours” to sit in the public gallery.
We also heard from some of the doctor’s patients who followed along online, worried about their ongoing healthcare, and their GP.
In its ruling, the tribunal said: “Harrop’s actions in posting inappropriate tweets over a sustained period of time, in contradiction to the advice he was given, breached fundamental tenets of the profession.
“His actions brought the profession into disrepute, undermining public confidence in the profession and the standards of conduct expected from members of the profession.”
Harrop told VICE World News, this has been “the most stressful period” of his life.
He added: “It has been a hugely stressful and agonising experience, which has led me to being in such a low mood, and being near-suicidal at times. I am relatively privileged, in that I am financially secure, and I have a supportive network around me.
“The outcome reached is fair and proportionate in the circumstances. Ultimately, confidence in the medical profession as a whole is more important than the career of any one particular doctor. And if being suspended means that I can play my part in making sure that public confidence in the profession is maintained, then so be it.”
Asked if the continual backlash from “gender critics” has changed his mind about working in trans healthcare for the NHS, the doctor firmly said “absolutely not – I will be dedicating my energy and enthusiasm to improving things for trans people.”
He continued: “I’m grateful that after this period of suspension, I will be able to return to what I know to be very important and meaningful work, for people who are forever overlooked and forgotten, not only by the health service, but society at large.
“There is so much I can achieve as a doctor, not only for trans people, but for the wider LGBTQ community.”
During the tribunal, VICE World News was contacted by some of the doctor’s current patients.
After seeing the tribunal’s judgement on Twitter, one trans person receiving treatment from Harrop – who wanted to stay anonymous in fear of online backlash – told VICE World News they are “relieved, but still angry at the General Medical Council”.
“I'm happy that he can continue as a GP and relieved that I don't need to rehash my whole trauma and medical history to a new GP who could easily be transphobic and refuse me care. Honestly, I'm upset that he got the suspension. If he was found to pose no risk to the public then why deprive his patients of care for a month?
“The General Medical Council clearly doesn’t care for trans people or their healthcare at all, and it's disgraceful.”
Another patient agreed, saying, “Dr Harrop has made accessing trans healthcare so smooth.
“He genuinely cares about trans people. He lays out everything in an understandable way, but most importantly he treats me like a person. He takes the time to listen to me, asks me my thoughts and feelings and doesn't rush me for answers. I am very pleased that he will continue to be my GP.”
Members of the public were able to attend Harrop’s tribunal hearing, and several women who told VICE World News they are “extremely critical of gender identity” attended every session. They tweeted second-by-second updates of the hearing to their thousands of equally-critical followers.
Following the judgment, some of them spoke to VICE World News on condition of anonymity. None of them use their real names in their online campaigning against trans equality.
One said that Harrop’s one-month suspension was “a lot more lenient” than they were expecting, adding “I would have ideally liked to see him struck off.”
They continued: “I wish he would do the job properly. I wish he realised that transition doesn’t work, I wish he recognised that the way forward is talking therapy, rather than all of the medical stuff he’s doing. Trans children do not exist.”
Another witness agreed, calling Harrop’s doctoring “monstrous”, and adding, “I’m glad it’s being seen as serious enough for suspension, but I had hoped it would be longer or more serious.”
Throughout the tribunal, Harrop’s legal team consistently referred to the General Medical Council’s case against the doctor as “woefully inadequate and wholly inappropriate”.
Over several days of the hearing, transgender people, transgender rights and the debate about gender identity were not mentioned at all.
“We’ve been provided with screenshots of individual tweets, but no context, and no investigation. Just snapshots from one side of a debate,” said Giles Powell, defending Harrop.
He continued: “If I was before my professional regulator, being criticised for a piece of content, I would want the context to be used. All of this conduct arose in that context and through that debate.”
“The reality is you need to look at the totality of it. How on earth do you properly do that without context? Context in law is everything.”
Harrop told VICE World News: “Sadly with many of these exchanges that took place on Twitter, in some cases several years ago, the context has been lost, including who I was responding to and why. However, I am thankful that the tribunal has had time to listen to both sides, and reach what I think is a fair and balanced determination.”
Asked what he would say to other doctors who want to fight for LGBTQ rights on social media, Harrop quickly responded “just be very, very cautious.”