Puberty blockers give children ‘options’ if they are distressed by assigned birth sex
Following an appeal by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the Court of Appeal is now considering whether people under the age of 16 can consent to medical treatment that delays puberty, via antihormone therapy , to provide further ‘options’ on gender dysphoria.
The upcoming ruling follows the case of Keira Bell, who took legal action against an NHS gender clinic in 2020 after saying she “should have been further challenged” by staff over her decision to pass to a man during his teenage years. Bell believes that children and adolescents cannot fully understand the full implications of puberty blockade treatment – the High Court has called the methods “experimental” – which is used for children with gender dysphoria.
“I should have been challenged on any propositions or claims I was making for myself,” Bell said at the time. “And I think that would have made a big difference too. If I was just challenged on the things I was saying.”
Now 23, Bell regrets undergo treatment and eventually become a man. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust maintains that its facilities provide safe treatment and always put the interests of patients and families first.
“Failure to provide treatment means the child remains in a position of distress and difficulty in making choices about what to do next,” said Trust’s legal representative Fenella Morris QC, who continued in claiming that puberty blockers are fully reversible. “There is no suggestion anywhere that this is a path… there is no hesitation in explaining to children and young people what the possibilities are.”
According to the NHS, “little is known” about the long-term side effects of gender dysphoria and whether this hormone-blocking treatment, available through the UK’s only Gender Identity Development (Gids) service Uni, could affect the development of adolescent brains or children’s bones. Judgment on the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust appeal is reserved for a later date.
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