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ADDED ON: 09/18/2021

Appeal court overturns UK puberty blockers ruling for under-16s

9/17/21 | The Guardian

The court of appeal has overturned a controversial judgment that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs. Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, which runs NHS England’s only gender identity development service (GIDS) for children, challenged a high court ruling last year in a case brought against the service by Keira Bell, a 24-year-old woman who began 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 three high court judges had also said the doctors of teenagers under 18 may need to consult the courts for authorisation for medical intervention. As a result of the decision, the Tavistock suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s. However, in a judgment handed down on Friday, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lady Justice King said it had been “inappropriate” for the high court to issue the guidance. They said: “The effect of the guidance was to require applications to the court in circumstances where the divisional court (a branch of the high court) itself had recognised that there was no legal obligation to do so. It placed patients, parents and clinicians in a very difficult position. “In practice the guidance would have the effect of denying treatment in many circumstances for want of resources to make such an application coupled with inevitable delay through court involvement.” Liberty, which intervened in the appeal, called it “a positive step forwards for trans rights in the UK and around the world”. The appeal court judges stressed that it was established legal principle that “it was for clinicians rather than the court to decide on competence [to consent]”. The Tavistock had argued that the high court ruling interfered with the entitlement of children to make decisions for themselves and was based on “partisan expert evidence”.

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