Campaigners say the landmark ruling will cause devastation for the trans community

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA INSTAGRAM

Trans young people have been left facing an uncertain future following a High Court ruling on puberty blockers described by some as “devastating”.

Children under the age of 16 experiencing gender dysphoria are “highly unlikely” to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, according to three High Court judges.

In the ruling against the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, which runs the UK’s main gender identity development service for children, Dame Victoria Sharp, alongside Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven, said: “It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers.

“It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”

They also added that “clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment.”

The case was brought to court by 23-year-old Keira Bell who took puberty blockers at the age of 16 after being referred to the Tavistock Centre, and had top surgery at 20, but has since de-transitioned, and Mrs A, who is trying to prevent her 16-year-old child from taking puberty blockers. Keira Bell has stated she was “delighted” by the ruling.

However, the ruling has been strongly criticised by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and by trans activists, who described it as a “devastating blow” to trans young people and their families.

A spokesperson for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust is disappointed by today’s judgment and we understand that the outcome is likely to cause anxiety for patients and their families.” The trust has also stated that they are seeking permission to appeal the judgement. 

In a statement, Mermaids CEO Susie Green described the decision as “an unforgivable and shameful betrayal of young people’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies”.

“To say this is devastating is an understatement. As a parent of a child who accessed blockers internationally because they weren’t available on the NHS at that time, I know what this means to those families affected.

“In the wake of this judgement, hundreds of families are telling us the impact it will have on their children. I only wish the judges involved had actually talked to some of the young people affected by their decision.

“They should have listened to the voices of older trans people who never had the opportunity to access puberty blockers, and desperately wish they could have. They should talk to the young people on a two-year waiting list who have now had hope ripped away from them.

“We are seeing panic, desperation and distress on our helpline. This is an unforgivable and shameful betrayal of young people’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies and we are deeply concerned about the impact it will have in the months and years to come.”

Also responding to the ruling, Nancy Kelley, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: “Today’s Court ruling about the prescription of puberty blockers is both deeply concerning and shocking.

“We’re worried this judgment will have a significant chilling effect on young trans people’s ability to access timely medical support. We welcome the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust’s stated intention to appeal this ruling.”

She added: “For decades, hormone blockers have been used to pause puberty for children experiencing precocious puberty. They also play a vital role in helping to alleviate the distress many trans young people experience and offer much-needed time to questioning young people to explore their identity.

“Denying this vital support is not a neutral act and can be deeply harmful to trans young people.”

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