Under-16s can take puberty blockers without parental consent, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The appeal was brought by the Tavistock Trust, which runs the UK’s only youth gender identity clinic. The decision reverses a 2020 ruling that under-16s lacked capacity to give informed consent to the treatment, which delays the onset of puberty. The original case was brought by Keira Bell, who says the clinic should have challenged her more over transitioning.
Court of Appeal judges said they recognised “the difficulties and complexities” of the issue, but that “it is for the clinicians to exercise their judgement knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances”.
Puberty blockers are drugs used to “pause” puberty by suppressing the release of hormones. They 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”.”
The judgement upholds established legal principles which respect the ability of our clinicians to engage actively and thoughtfully with our patients in decisions about their care and futures,” a spokesperson said.
“It affirms that it is for doctors, not judges, to decide on the capacity of under-16s to consent to medical treatment.”
The Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) said that hormone treatment “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”.