Court allows three pro-trans groups to join NHS appeal against cruel puberty blockers ruling
National trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence (GI), young people’s sexual health charity Brook, and the Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organisation dedicated to hormone health, were given permission to intervene on Friday (29 January).
The appeal is against a December High Court ruling that said gender dysphoric under 16’s could not give their informed consent to taking puberty blockers without also understanding the long-term risks and implications of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and gender-affirming surgery.
LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall, which was originally part of the Good Law Project-backed coalition seeking to intervene, was not granted permission to intervene today.
“By working in unity across children’s orgs, reproductive health orgs and international medical bodies, we have climbed the first hurdle,” the Good Law Project tweeted.
Trans kids charity Mermaids said it was “delighted” that GI, Brook and the Endocrine Society had been allowed to intervene “in this important appeal that will be heard by the Court of Appeal later this year”.
Last summer, before the October High Court hearing, Stonewall and Mermaids were both denied permission to intervene by the court. Anti-trans pressure group Transgender Trend – which backs calls to “eliminate transgenderism” – was granted permission to join the case at that time.
The legal case was brought by Keira Bell, 23, who took puberty blockers at 16 and had top surgery at 20 but has since detransitioned, and Mrs A, who is trying to prevent her 16-year-old child taking puberty blockers. It hinged on whether under-16s can give informed consent to puberty blockers, which are currently the only medication available to gender dysphoric under-16s.
Bell and Mrs A crowdfunded almost £100,000 to pay for the case.
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In December, the High Court published its verdict in the landmark judicial review against GIDS, the only NHS gender clinic for trans youth in England and Wales, saying it’s “doubtful” transgender under-16s can give informed consent to puberty blockers, and as a result will need to pursue a court order for the treatment.
Puberty blockers are widely deemed safe, reversible and medically necessary, lawyers for the Tavistock maintained at the October hearing. Lawyers for Bell and Mrs A argued that trans teens should have to go before a court before being able to access the medication.
The High Court agreed, with the judges saying in their ruling that it is “doubtful” children aged 14 to 15 could understand “the long-term risks and consequences” of taking puberty blockers and then HRT, and “highly unlikely” that children under 13 would be competent to give consent.
As a result, the court said clinicians may “regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment”. The judges ruled that informed consent for puberty blockers should be tied to an understanding of the long-term implications of taking HRT or having gender-affirming surgery later in life.
The High Court’s judgement is suspended pending the outcome of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s appeal, which was granted on 18 January.
The Good Law Project has been contacted for comment.