Watch our spokeswoman Tanya Carter talk to Richard Tice about children’s ability to consent to life-changing medical intervention in the form of puberty blockers.

On the 17th September, the Appeal Court upheld the appeal of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust against the decision of the High Court in Bell & Mrs A v Tavistock. The High Court had ruled that children under 16 could not be given puberty blockers after a former patient, Keira Bell, brought a case against the clinic. This has now been overturned.

Although Keira Bell will seek permission to appeal this in the Supreme Court, for now the decision means that doctors are able to once again prescribe puberty blockers to children under 16. This can happen even without the parents’ consent, if the doctor believes the child understands the consequences.

Safe Schools Alliance does not believe that children have the ability to consent to life-altering experimental medical treatment. We wrote about at the time of the High Court ruling on Keira Bell’s case.

In the Talk Radio interview Carter points out that the previous High Court finding – which said that children do not have the capacity to consent to a path that ultimately can lead to sterilisation – is unchanged by this appeal ruling. The difference is that the responsibility for acting in accordance with those findings is now back with clinicians. Carter said that if the Tavistock continue prescribing puberty blockers to children as young as twelve, despite knowing that consent cannot be meaningfully obtained, they could therefore face legal action.

The Appeal Court judgement acknowledges that people who have been given puberty blockers as children may sue on an individual basis. The judgement says “Great care is needed to ensure that the necessary consents are properly obtained. As Gillick itself made clear, clinicians will be alive to the possibility of regulatory or civil action where, in individual cases, the issue can be tested.”

Asked about the reputation of the Tavistock clinic, Carter reminded Tice that the trust had just been successfully sued by their own Safeguarding Lead for trying to silence her when she raised safeguarding concerns over the treatment of children.

Carter reflected on the exponential increase in the number of children identifying as transgender: “A lot of these children need counselling and exploration into what’s got on that’s resulted in this. Have they suffered abuse, have they suffered trauma, are they autistic, are they struggling with same-sex attraction?” She said that these children and their parents were just not getting the support that they needed. Children are being left on very long waiting-lists, and as a result some parents are turning to GPs in private practice. One of these, Dr Webberley, is currently under investigation for prescribing testosterone to a 12-year-old. “It’s an awful situation”, Carter said.

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