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British High Court bans gender transitions for children

Children under the age of 16 are unlikely to give “informed consent” to take puberty blockers to begin their gender transition process, according to the British High Court.

Photo by dorota dylka from Unsplash.com

Children under the age of 16 are unlikely to give “informed consent” to take puberty blockers to begin their gender transition process. This is according to the British High Court via a landmark ruling.

The case decided by the court was filed against the Tavistock Centre, England’s only youth gender identity clinic, and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. A claimant, Keira Bell, was referred to Tavistock as a teenager (16). After three sessions with a psychologist, she was prescribed puberty blockers at 17; and at the age of 20, she had a double mastectomy.

She, however, said she later regretted the decision. As she started to “de-transitioned”, she sued
the government for allowing her to undergo the radical therapy, which she fears may have damaged her ability to have children. In her argument, she said that underage children cannot truly understand what they’re signing up for when they go through the life-changing therapy.

The three judges in the Bell v Tavistock case backed the complainant, ruling that children under the age of 16 wouldn’t be able to properly grasp the consequences of consenting to using puberty blockers.

“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers,” the decision states. “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.”

Even for children aged over 16, they argued it may be necessary to involve the courts.

“In respect of young persons aged 16 and over, the legal position is that there is a presumption that they have the ability to consent to medical treatment,” they further wrote. “Given the long-term consequences of the clinical interventions at issue in this case, and given that the treatment is as yet innovative and experimental, we recognize that clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorization of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment.”

In the past, British minors could consent if they were “Gillick competent”, i.e. when a child is considered mature and intelligent enough to give informed consent.

In response to the ruling, the Tavistock Centre said it was “disappointed” and planned to appeal. All the same, all referrals for under-16s have been stopped.

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