On Friday 17 September 2021 the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in R (Bell and another) v. Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, overturning the landmark ruling of the Divisional Court which had held that it was ‘highly unlikely’ children under 13 could give informed consent to being prescribed puberty blockers as treatment for gender dysphoria, and ‘very doubtful’ that a 14 or 15-year-old could do so, such that a Court order may be appropriate before any such treatment is given.
The Court of Appeal noted that the treatment of children for gender dysphoria is controversial, and raises medical, moral and ethical issues which are the subject of intense debate, but held that once the Divisional Court had found that the Tavistock’s policy and guidance was lawful, it should not have gone on to make a declaration setting out the relevant information that a child needs to understand in order to give informed consent, nor should it have issued guidance on how likely it was that children would have the necessary understanding to consent at different ages. The Court of Appeal said that “it was for clinicians rather than the court to decide on competence” to consent to receive puberty blockers, and that whether this was done properly should be tested by regulatory or civil action in individual cases.
Given the importance of this case and the significant public interest, the claimants are considering appealing to the Supreme Court.
Read the judgment and judgment summary here and see media coverage here. Jeremy Hyam QC, Alasdair Henderson and Darragh Coffey acted for the claimants, instructed by Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw.