Landmark decision on puberty-blocking drugs will not be challenged in Supreme Court

A landmark ruling on the use of puberty-blocking drugs for children with gender dysphoria will not be challenged in the Supreme Court.

At the end of 2020, the High Court ruled that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that a child aged 13 or under could consent to hormone-blocking treatment, and that it was ‘highly doubtful’ that a child aged 14 or 15 years understands the long term consequences.

The original ruling also said doctors “may well consider it appropriate” to seek court approval for any puberty blocker prescription.

The Supreme Court (Yui Mok/AP)

(PA Archive)

But the Court of Appeal overturned that decision last year, saying it was “inappropriate”.

In their decision, three senior judges said it was up to doctors “to exercise their judgment” on whether their patients could properly consent, adding that the original decision “places patients, parents and clinicians in a very difficult position.”

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lady Justice King, also concluded that the High Court guidelines would require doctors “to suspend, or at least temper, their clinical judgment and defer to which is equivalent to the clinical judgment of the researcher”.

On Thursday, it was announced that the Court of Appeal’s decision would not be challenged in the Supreme Court because it “did not raise an arguable point of law”.

The original case was worn by Keira Bell (Sam Tobin/PA)

(PA Archive)

The original case was brought by Keira Bell – a woman who started taking puberty blockers aged 16 before later ‘detransitioning’ – against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children.

The mother of an autistic teenager on the waiting list for treatment, known only as Ms A, supported Ms Bell in the legal challenge.

Following the Court of Appeal’s decision in September 2021, Ms Bell said she intended to appeal the decision to the UK’s highest court.

But Supreme Court justices Lord Reed, Lord Sales and Lord Stephens refused Ms Bell permission to bring the case.

A spokesperson for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We are proud of our hardworking, caring and caring colleagues at GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service). They and the patients they support will be relieved by the end of this period of uncertainty.

After the Supreme Court’s decision was made public on Thursday, Ms Bell said she was disappointed with the decision but “delighted with what has been accomplished as a result of this case”.

She continued: ‘We have brought to light the murky practices of one of the greatest medical scandals of the modern era.

“Practice and policy have changed accordingly.”

Ms Bell added that she felt “privileged to have played my part in developing a more careful approach to treating children with gender dysphoria”.

LGBT activists had expressed concern after the initial High Court ruling, with the charity Stonewall saying it was a ‘green light for those who want to use this as an opportunity to roll back not just rights to the health of young trans people, but the rights of all young people”.

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