Lawyer for woman, 23, fighting clinic that helped her change genders to male at 17 only to ‘detransition’ to female again tells High Court it’s a ‘fairy tale’ that children can give informed consent for treatment
- High Court told that it was a ‘fairytale’ to suggest children can give consent
- This is because they lack ‘sufficient maturity to understand what is involved’
- Case brought by mother of a 16-year-old autistic girl who is on clinic waiting list
- Mother wants to stop her from having giving puberty-blocking drugs
- Case also being brought by Keira Bell, 23, who took puberty blocking drugs
NHS doctors are ‘misleading’ children seeking gender identity treatment by telling them that any damage caused by puberty-blocking drugs is reversible, a court was told yesterday.
Children as young as ten are wrongly being told that any side effects from the drugs will not be long-term, judges heard.
The High Court was also told that it was a ‘fairytale’ and ‘an affront to common sense’ to suggest children under 18 can lawfully give their consent to such treatments.
This is because they lack ‘sufficient maturity to understand what is involved’.
The claims came during a landmark hearing in which a mother is trying to prevent the NHS’s gender clinic, run by Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, from giving puberty-blocking drugs to her 16-year-old autistic daughter.
NHS doctors are ‘misleading’ children seeking gender identity treatment by telling them that any damage caused by puberty-blocking drugs is reversible, a court was told yesterday. Pictured: Keira Bell, 23, seen outside the High Court, took puberty blocking drugs as a 16-year-old to try to transition to a boy and is now bringing a landmark legal case against the NHS’s gender clinic
Children as young as ten are wrongly being told that any side effects from the drugs will not be long-term, judges heard. The High Court was also told that it was a ‘fairytale’ and ‘an affront to common sense’ to suggest children under 18 can lawfully give their consent to such treatments. Pictured: Ms is now ‘detransitioning’
The drugs halt a child’s normal physical development during puberty, making gender reassignment surgery easier.
The woman, who can only be called ‘Mrs A’ for legal reasons, fears her child will be fast-tracked for transgender medical treatment once she is seen by clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in London.
Mrs A believes her daughter’s desire to be male is driven by having Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.
The claims came during a landmark hearing in which a mother, along with Ms Bell, is trying to prevent the NHS’s gender clinic, run by Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, from giving puberty-blocking drugs to her 16-year-old autistic daughter
She fears GIDS will simply ‘affirm’ the girl’s belief she is really a boy and wants the court to rule that decisions on whether treatments like puberty blockers are given should be taken out of the hands of clinicians.
The case is also being brought by a woman and former GIDS patient who fears the treatment she had may have left her unable to have children.
Keira Bell, 23, took puberty blocking drugs as a 16-year-old to try to transition to a boy.
She later took testosterone, which left her with a deep voice and possibly infertile, and underwent a double-mastectomy – all actions that she now ‘deeply regrets’ having ‘de-transitioned’.
The Tavistock Centre is being sued as part of a case aiming to make it unlawful for children who wish to undergo gender reassignment to be prescribed hormone blockers without an order from the court ruling such treatment is in their ‘best interests’
Jeremy Hyam QC, Mrs A’s barrister, said GIDS literature given to children contains the claim that any harm done by taking puberty blockers ‘is completely reversible so all the workings of the body will return to normal’.
The leaflets also contain the claim that children are ‘not likely’ to suffer psychological or emotional damage later down the line if they change their mind about their identity.
But Mr Hyam told the court that, in fact, ‘the effect of hormone blockers on the intensity, duration and outcome of adolescent development is largely unknown’.
Timeline of events leading up to Keira Bell’s High Court battle against gender clinic
Age 14: Ms Bell said she started to struggle with ‘her sense of identity and the thought of becoming a woman’.
Age 16: About seven years ago she was referred to the Tavistock clinic and after three hour-long sessions was prescribed puberty blockers.
Age 17: The following year she was put on to testosterone, which deepened her voice.
Age 20: Three years ago, she had an operation to have her breasts removed.
Age 22: Last year she began detransitioning back to become a woman after regretting the treatment.
Age 23: Legal battle at the High Court begins against Tavistock in October, who she claims did not properly assess her.
He added: ‘There is evidence that hormone blockers can have significant side effects, including loss of fertility and sexual function and decreased bone density.
If a child has puberty suppressed from the age of, say 11, and does not experience puberty at the same time as their peers… it’s a very serious, invasive process… the psychological effects are simply unknown.’
In written statements, he added: ‘Thus, to represent in patient information leaflets that such treatments are reversible and their purpose is to provide a space for thinking is misleading.’
He cited nine expert professors from four countries who have raised serious concerns about the use of puberty blockers on young children.
Mr Hyam also argued that the GIDS’s practice of accepting that young children can give ‘informed consent’ to being given the clinic’s treatments was ‘absurd’.
He told the court: ‘This is simply a fairytale – nobody could sensibly think on a proper application of the law that a child of 13 or under, who can’t in law give consent to sexual activity, could possibly give informed consent to treatments of dubious benefit and that would result in life-long changes.’
In a statement to the court, Miss Bell said: ‘I made a brash decision as a teenager.
‘I do not believe it is possible to carefully weigh the consequences for your adult life of radical medical identity treatment as a teenager.’
Both Mrs A and Miss Bell want the court to rule that judges should have to approve treatments such as puberty blockers to better protect children.
Some experts say the drugs give children time to reflect on whether to press ahead with further treatment.
Fenella Morris QC, representing the Tavistock, said the claim that children could not give informed consent was ‘a radical proposition’.
She accepted hormone blockers were ‘experimental’ but argued that their use ‘has been widely researched and debated for three decades’, adding: ‘It is a safe and reversible treatment with a well-established history.’
The hearing continues.
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a condition in which someone becomes distressed because they don’t feel that their biological sex matches the gender they identify as.
For example, someone may feel like a woman and want to live as a woman, but have been born with the anatomy of a man.
Gender dysphoria is a ‘recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate’ and is ‘not a mental illness’, according to the NHS.
People who live as a gender which is not the same as their biological sex are called transgender.
Some people may choose to have hormone therapy – for example, to make them grow hair or develop breasts – or to have reassignment surgery to give them the genitals of a person of the sex they identify as.
People diagnosed with gender dysphoria are allowed to legally change their gender.
According to the charity Stonewall, as many as 1 per cent of the population may be trans – although accurate numbers are not known.
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