UK High Court reverses anti-Trans ruling on Bell v Tavistock

The Bell v Tavistock case, which ruled in December 2020 that puberty blockers should not be given to adolescents, has been overturned.

Midshot of Kiera Bell surrounded by a crowd with microphones in front of her
Image: YouTube

Last Friday, September 17, the UK High Court reversed its ruling in the Bell v Tavistock case which stated that individuals younger than 16 years old could not give consent to take reversible hormones to delay puberty.

The court ruled that adolescents would lack the maturity necessary to make informed decisions about undergoing gender reassignment, a decision which has now been overturned to the great relief of the LGBTQ+ community.

The case was initially brought forward by Keira Bell, a 24 year-old who began taking hormone blockers in her teens, but then began the process of detransitioning.

She took the case against Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, which runs a UK-based gender identity development service (GIDS) for children.

If deemed medically appropriate, Tavistock refers patients to paediatric endocrinologists for consideration with regard to the prescription of puberty blockers, but they do not themselves prescribe these hormone blockers.

Following the court’s decision, the Tavistock was forced to suspend referrals for under-16s but they successfully appealed the decision, claiming that it was based on ‘partisan expert evidence’.

In a statement to GCN, Noah Halpin, Community Aid Officer with TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), states:

“The recently overturned ruling in the case of Bell V Tavistock is a very welcomed judgment for young trans people, not only in the UK but also across the world in countries that might have been influenced by the original judgment. Trans young people, just like everyone else, have the right to bodily autonomy.”

The outcome of the ruling allows for a model of informed consent – allowing patients, in consultation with medical professionals, to choose the most effective course of treatment.

In highlighting the impact of the ruling, Halpin goes on to say:

“I think a quote from the official judgment sums it up perfectly. ‘The Court of Appeal’s judgment makes it clear that decisions around Gillick competence are the same for trans youth as for all others, and that no unique restrictions need be placed on a persons ability to consent simply because they are trans.’”

Halpin also identifies the importance of the ruling on jurisdictions outside of UK law.

“I know that this judgment is an incredible relief to young trans people and their families. We need to see Ireland take a similar approach and create an Ireland-based system that treats trans young people under international best practice standards of care.”

Mermaids, a support network and charity for transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse young people in the UK, released a statement following the new ruling. They said:

“…It is for the clinician together with the patient and the family to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. It was not for the court to make generalisations about consent at different ages, nor should the court be routinely part of the consent process for puberty blockers. This is a victory for common sense and young people’s bodily autonomy and how the Tavistock and NHS England respond to the judgment is paramount.”

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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