Children will be protected from being given puberty blocking drugs following a major ruling at the High Court.
Detransitioner Keira Bell, 23, brought the case against the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) after she was given hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones as a teenager.
Judges said it was “highly unlikely” children 13 and under could ever genuinely consent to hormone blockers, and “very doubtful” 14 and 15 year olds could do so.
Lawyers acting for Bell had argued that young people have too little life experience to understand the potentially devastating and lifelong consequences of taking the experimental ‘sex-swap’ drugs.
The three senior High Court judges ruled that children need to understand “the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life changing consequences for a child.”
The ruling added: “There will be enormous difficulties in a child under 16 understanding and weighing up this information and deciding whether to consent to the use of puberty blocking medication”.
“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. 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.”
For children aged 16 and over the Court ruled that: “so long as the young person has mental capacity and the clinicians consider the treatment is in his/her best interests, then absent a possible dispute with the parents, the court generally has no role”.
However, it concluded: “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 recognise that clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment”.
Parental consent is currently required for under-18s seeking a body piercing or tattoo. It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to gamble, buy cigarettes, alcohol or fireworks.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Bell said she was “delighted” with the ruling.
Her solicitor, Paul Conrathe, called the ruling “an historic judgment that protects children who suffer from gender dysphoria”.
He said the judgment showed that a “culture of unreality” at the Tavistock clinic “may have led to hundreds of children receiving this experimental treatment without their properly informed consent.”
A spokesman for the NHS Trust confirmed it would seek permission to appeal.
Having returned to living as female, Bell said she wants to protect others from experiencing the life-altering effects of the drugs.
Speaking on the Today programme earlier this year, Bell said: “There wasn’t any in-depth investigation into my history or anything like that. So I was fairly quickly put on to the medical path.”
Expressing her regret, she explained: “It puts you on a path that changes your life forever. And when you are a minor you have no chance of understanding how that affects you and your adult life. If we put a stop to this it will allow people to grow naturally.”
Bell first expressed confusion about her gender aged 14 and later had surgery to remove her breasts.
She now wants gender dysphoria to be treated through mental health support instead of drugs and surgery, saying “psychological conditions need psychological treatment”.
Worryingly, under plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK, detransitioners like Bell could find themselves criminalised for trying to discourage others from changing gender.