The U.K.’s high court ruled Tuesday that children are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to medical treatment involving drugs that delay puberty.
In a landmark ruling Dec. 1, three senior judges said that doctors may require court authorization to begin puberty-blocking treatment involving teenagers.
The case was brought by two claimants against the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, which runs Britain’s main Gender Identity Development Service for children.
In the past five years, the number of people referred to the Gender Identity Development Service has almost doubled. According to the service’s website, there were 1,408 referrals in 2015-16 and 2,728 in 2019-20.
The judges were asked to assess the lawfulness of the NHS trust’s practice of prescribing puberty blockers to children experiencing gender dysphoria, which they defined as “a condition where persons experience distress because of a mismatch between their perceived identity and their natal sex, that is, their sex at birth.”
They said that puberty-suppressing drugs had been prescribed to children as young as 10 on the basis of informed consent — a fundamental principle of modern medicine in which a doctor informs a patient of potential risks before they agree to undergo medical treatment.
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