Nancy Kelley, Stonewall, Chief Executive (she/her) said: ‘Today’s Court ruling about the prescription of puberty blockers is both deeply concerning and shocking. We’re worried this judgment will have a significant chilling effect on young trans people’s ability to access timely medical support. We welcome the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust’s stated intention to appeal this ruling.
‘Although it is unclear, the judgment implies that trans under 18-year-olds should obtain permission from a court before being prescribed hormone blockers by the NHS. The judgment states that it’s ‘highly unlikely’ a child under 13 could ever give valid consent to treatment, and that it’s ‘very doubtful’ a 14- or 15-year-old is capable of giving valid consent. It also suggests that in some cases 16- and 17-year-olds might not be capable of consent and should seek a court order. The average onset of puberty in the UK is currently 11 for girls and 12 for boys.
‘For decades, hormone blockers have been used to pause puberty for children experiencing precocious puberty. They also play a vital role in helping to alleviate the distress many trans young people experience and offer much-needed time to questioning young people to explore their identity. Denying this vital support is not a neutral act and can be deeply harmful to trans young people.
‘While puberty blockers are a reversible intervention, the judgment says that in order for a young person to give informed consent, they must also understand the potential implications of a range of other potential future treatments, including cross-sex hormones and surgical intervention. These are treatments only available to those aged 16 or over, and those aged 18 or over, respectively. We believe this is an extraordinary extension of the principle of informed consent.
‘If this judgment is upheld on appeal, this ruling is likely to significantly extend the wait trans young people already face when seeking specialist support – and risks adding enormous strain to our already overstretched courts and mental health services.
‘Today’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent not just for the rights of trans young people, but for all young people. Not only do we disagree that trans young people cannot understand the implications of treatment, but we’re worried this judgment risks eroding Gillick competency more broadly. Gillick established that people under the age of 16 can be capable of sufficiently understanding and consenting to medical treatments, like abortion or contraception, including understanding their long-term physical and psychological consequences. The lawyers representing the claimants said they want to push Gillick to ‘breaking point’. This judgment gives a green light to those who want to use this as an opportunity to roll back not just the healthcare rights of trans young people, but the rights of all young people.
‘This news is going to be incredibly tough to hear for trans young people and their families, whether or not they are directly affected by it. Many trans young people and their families are being left with unanswered questions about what will happen to the support they need. NHS England must urgently give clarity to trans young people and their families about how they can continue to access care. We will continue to fight for trans young people to get the support they need, until every LGBT person is free to be themselves.
If you are struggling with this development, please consider getting support from:
Trans Youth & LGBT organisations:
- Gendered Intelligence: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07511614834 (website)
- Mermaids Youth helpline: 0808 801 0400 (website)
- LGBT Foundation email: email@example.com (website)
- Proud Trust: 0161 660 3347 / firstname.lastname@example.org (website)
- AllSorts: 01273 7212211 (website)
- MindLine Trans+: 0300 330 5468 (website)
- Switchboard LGBT+ helpline: 0300 330 0630 (website)
- LGBT Foundation helpline: 0345 3 30 30 30
- Childline: 0800 1111 (website)
If you’re feeling suicidal or are in a crisis:
- Hopeline: CALL 0800 068 41 41 / TEXT 07860 039967 / EMAIL email@example.com
- Give us a shout: TEXT 85258