High Court to hear landmark case on ‘experimental’ puberty blockers for children

Keira Bell
Keira Bell - (Copyright PA Archive)
2:45am, Wed 07 Oct 2020
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A landmark case about whether children who wish to undergo gender reassignment should be prescribed “experimental” puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones will be heard at the High Court.

Kiera Bell, a 23-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before “detransitioning” last year, is suing the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service (GIDS) for children.

The legal challenge is also being brought by Mrs A, the mother of a 16-year-old autistic girl who is currently on the waiting list for treatment.

In January, the pair were given the go-ahead to bring the action against the trust after claiming the way informed consent is obtained from children is “materially misleading”.

At a hearing in London on Wednesday, Ms Bell and Mrs A’s lawyers will argue that children under the age of 18 cannot give “informed consent” to treatment which has “irreversible, lifelong consequences”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, Ms Bell said she was referred to GIDS, which she said followed “the affirmation model”, when she was 16 and was “fairly quickly put on to the medical path”.

She said: “When I came there presenting with gender dysphoric feelings, my claims of being male or feeling like I should transition, they affirmed that immediately.

“There wasn’t any in-depth investigation into my history or anything like that.”

Ms Bell said she experienced “menopausal symptoms” and was not sure if she would ever be able to have children as a result of the treatment.

She said: “When you are a minor, you have no chance of understanding how that (treatment) affects you and your adult life.

“If we put a stop to this, it will allow people to grow naturally – and, more often than not, adults outgrow their gender dysphoric feelings, so it is preventing unnecessary harm.”

Ms Bell added: “Psychological conditions need psychological treatment, so I think it’s important to prevent kids even considering hormone blockers.”

Her solicitor Paul Conrathe said: “Young people under the age of 18 are unable to give informed consent to an experimental medical treatment that has irreversible, lifelong consequences.”

In a statement before the hearing, a spokesman for the trust said: “GIDS is a safe and thoughtful service which puts the best interest of its patients and their families first.

“We won’t comment on the ongoing proceedings and await the judgment of the court in due course.”

The case, which will be heard by Dame Victoria Sharp, Mr Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven, begins at 10.30am on Wednesday and is expected to last two days.

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