Puberty-Blocker Ruling For Children Under 16 Won’t Be Challenged At British Supreme Court

Puberty-Blocker Ruling For Children Under 16 Won’t Be Challenged At British Supreme Court
The original case was brought against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. (Aaron Chown/PA)
Owen Evans

A challenge to a ruling allowing children with gender dysphoria to take puberty blockers without their parents’ consent as long as their doctor agrees will not reach Britain’s Supreme Court.

The decision announced May 5 by the Supreme Court marks an end to the high-profile case of Keira Bell, who brought a legal fight against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the UK’s only gender identity development service for children.

Bell, 23, is a woman who began taking puberty blockers to transition to male when she was 16 and later detransitioned. Bell said she was given them as a teenager after only three hours of consultation.

Supreme Court Justices Lord Reed, Lord Sales, and Lord Stephens denied Bell permission to bring the case.

The announcement said the ruling would not be challenged at Britain’s highest court as it did not “raise an arguable point of law.”

The landmark case was originally won by Bell. But that ruling was successfully challenged by the NHS Trust. Children can take puberty blockers without parental consent, the Court of Appeal ruled.
The High Court ruled in December 2020 that children under the age of 16 lacked the capacity to give informed consent to medical treatment which delays the onset of puberty, limiting their use. It added that it was “very doubtful” that a child of 14 or 15 would understand the long-term consequences and “highly unlikely” that a child aged 13 or under would be able to consent.
The original case was brought by Keira Bell in this undated photo. (Sam Tobin/PA)
The original case was brought by Keira Bell in this undated photo. (Sam Tobin/PA)

“I made a brash decision as a teenager, as a lot of teenagers do, trying to find confidence and happiness, except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected,” Bell told the High Court in 2020.

But in 2021, judges at the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court ruling on the grounds that the court was “not in a position to generalise about the capability of persons of different ages to understand what is necessary for them to be competent to consent to the administration of puberty blockers.”

In their decision, three senior judges said it was up to doctors to “exercise their judgment” about whether their patients could properly consent, adding that the original decision “placed patients, parents, and clinicians in a very difficult position.”

A spokesperson for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said: “We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We are proud of our hardworking, caring, and thoughtful colleagues in GIDS (gender identity development service). They and the patients they support will be relieved by the end of this period of uncertainty.”

In response to the news, Bell said she was disappointed in the decision but “delighted at what has been achieved as a result of this case.”

“We have shone a light on the murky practices of one of the greatest medical scandals of the modern era,” she added.

Director Gracie Bradley for the human rights group Liberty, which intervened in the appeal, told The Daily Mail that this “ruling is a positive step forwards for trans rights in the UK and around the world.”

“As the court has recognised, trans children should be able to choose and receive the healthcare they need on the same basis as all other children,” she added.

PA contributed to this report.