UK High Court Rules Children Cannot Make Wise Decisions on Treatments to Alter Gender

Children in the United Kingdom under the age of 16 can no longer get puberty-blocking transgender hormones unless they can show an understanding of the risks and costs, says a High Court in the United Kingdom.

In their decision, Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s bench division, Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven, said a child under the age of 16 may only consent to the use of medication intended to suppress puberty “where he or she is competent to understand the nature of the treatment.” Such an understanding must include “the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life changing consequences for a child.

“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers,” the judges wrote. “It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.

“Given the long-term consequences of the clinical interventions at issue in this case, and given that the treatment is as yet innovative and experimental, we recognize that clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorization of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment,” the judges wrote.

“At a hearing in October, lawyers for the claimants argued that children going through puberty were “not capable of properly understanding the nature and effects of hormone blockers,’” the Guardian reported.

The Tavistock organization “treats” children who live in England and Wales. In the year 2019-2020, of 161 children referred to GIDS, three were aged 10 or 11 and 95 under the age of 16, the Guardian reported. A spokesman for the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust said the trust would seek permission to appeal.