Children under-16 can now take puberty blockers without their parents’ consent as the Court of Appeal overturned landmark ruling against an NHS gender clinic.
In an historic ruling last December, the High Court ruled that children under 16 with gender dysphoria could only consent to the use of hormone-blocking treatments if they understood the ‘immediate and long-term consequences’.
The judges said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that a child aged 13 or under would be able to consent to the treatment, and that it was ‘doubtful’ that a child of 14 or 15 would understand the consequences.
But the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children, brought an appeal against the ruling in June. In a judgment on Friday, the Court of Appeal said it was inappropriate for the High Court to give the guidance, finding doctors should instead exercise judgment about whether their patients can properly consent.
The original case was brought by Keira Bell – a 24-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before later ‘detransitioning’ – against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children.
Critics had argued that puberty blockers could leave youngsters infertile and have longer-term effects on sexual function and bone density. Ms Bell today said she was ‘obviously disappointed’ with the ruling, and said the case had ‘shone a light into the dark corners of a medical scandal that is harming children.’