Ruling limiting under-16s puberty blockers overturned
The appeals court found that it was for 'clinicians to exercise their judgment knowing how important it was for the patient’s consent to be properly obtained'
The court of appeal on Friday overturned an earlier ruling that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are not mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs.
Puberty blocker drugs are used to "pause" puberty by suppressing the release of hormones.
Last year, Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, challenged a high court ruling in a case brought against the service by Keira Bell, 24. Bell had begun taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before detransitioning. The other applicant was the unnamed mother of a teenage autistic girl on the waiting list for treatment.
The Court of Appeal judgment said the divisional court was "not in a position to give guidance that generalised about the capability of persons of different ages to understand what was necessary for them to be competent to consent to the administration of puberty blockers".
The decision concludes: "The Court of Appeal recognised the difficulties and complexities associated with the question of whether under 18s were competent to consent to the prescription of puberty blockers, but it was for clinicians to exercise their judgment knowing how important it was for the patient’s consent to be properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances. Clinicians would be alive to the possibility of regulatory or civil action which allows the issue of whether consent has been properly obtained to be tested in individual cases."
As a result of the earlier ruling, Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust - which runs NHS England’s only gender identity development service for children - suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s.
Puberty blockers are prescribed to some children who are experiencing gender dysphoria, which the NHS describes as "a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity".
Hormone treatment, according to the Tavistock's Gender Identity Development Service, allows a young person "time to consider their options and to continue to explore their developing gender identity before making decisions about irreversible forms of treatment".