An inquest into the death of a 20-year-old transgender woman, Alice Litman, has highlighted systemic failures and underfunding in the services that were meant to support her. Litman had been on waiting lists for 1,023 days before she died on 26 May 2022, in Brighton, the family stated.
The three-day inquest, held at Sussex County Cricket Ground in Hove, was overseen by coroner Sarah Clarke. On the final day, Clarke announced that she would be considering a prevention of future deaths report and would adjourn the inquest to give a narrative conclusion in two weeks’ time.
During the proceedings, representatives from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), WellBN (Litman’s GP), and the online transgender clinic GenderGP all provided evidence.
Clarke expressed concern about the lack of resources: “It seems to me all the services are underfunded and insufficiently resourced for the level of need the society we live in now presents.”
Issues that Clarke plans to explore further include Litman’s previous suicide attempts and her 2019 transition, waiting lists and her inability to access hormone treatment, and the lapse in care when transitioning from children’s to adult mental health services.
Litman’s mother, Dr Caroline Litman, testified that she believed her daughter’s death was “preventable with access to the right support”. Alice Litman had first disclosed her identity as a woman to her sister in September 2018 and later consulted a doctor regarding her gender identity. Despite receiving private hormone treatment at the time of her death, she had been increasingly distressed over not being on testosterone blockers.
Sophie Walker, who represented the Litman family at the inquest, criticised the system, stating: “In effect, the system in place to provide healthcare for transyouth does not exist. It is not able to be accessed at the time when they need it, or when they need it the most.”
WellBN and Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that there was no denial of lifesaving emergency treatment for Litman, but there was an acknowledged delay in services.
Dr Caroline Litman, in a poignant statement read out in court, called for urgent reforms: “I do not want another parent to live the rest of their life with their child in a jar on the mantlepiece, instead of in their warm embrace. I believe Alice’s death was preventable with access to the right support, and that change must happen.”
This tragic case highlights the challenges facing the transgender community in accessing timely and effective healthcare and mental health support. The underfunding of essential services is not just an administrative oversight but a systemic failing with potentially fatal consequences. With rising demand for mental health and gender identity services, the need for immediate reform and adequate funding has never been more evident.
Image credit: Family handout/PA