An NHS gender clinic in Scotland will continue giving experimental puberty-blocking drugs to children, despite the High Court for England and Wales ruling that children cannot generally give their consent.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said that it will not be reviewing its services at the Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic, telling one mother that the ruling “is an English decision” and that the practice of giving the drugs to children in Scotland “will remain as is”.
Earlier this month, The Tavistock and Portman Trust announced it had “immediately suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s” in light of the High Court’s ruling.
High Court ignored
The Sandyford clinic was forced to issue an apology last week after it failed to correct a leaflet stating that puberty blockers were fully reversible. NHS England had amended its own guidance in June to state: “Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the clinic was operating within current guidelines, but she was challenged by Jenny Marra MSP, who stressed the decision was on whether children could consent to such drugs.
She said: “Law and society do not deem children to have capacity to consent to sex or marriage. Last week, the High Court said that neither do they have the capacity to consent to life-altering, fertility-changing drugs until they are aged 16”.
Sturgeon responded that the High Court ruling “has no formal status in Scotland”.
Murdo Fraser MSP also challenged the Scottish Government’s position, saying it “would simply be unacceptable if young people here were not to have the same protections as those applicable south of the Border”.
Campaign group For Women Scotland added that it is “extremely troubled” by the First Minister’s statements.
Spokeswoman Susan Smith said: “We have seen no evidence to suggest that Scottish children have the capacity to consent to something so drastic when English children do not.”
Suspended GP defiant
Meanwhile, GenderGP, an online clinic run by suspended GP Helen Webberley, vowed to defy the High Court’s ruling and continue prescribing the drugs to children.
Webberley, who was fined and suspended for operating an unlicensed gender clinic, continues to provide puberty blockers to children as young as twelve by exploiting a legal loophole involving doctors based on the continent.