A United Kingdom appeals court has ruled that doctors can prescribe life-changing puberty blockers to children under the age of 16 without their parents’ consent, overturning an earlier decision of the High Court which ruled that a judge’s approval was required.
The appeals court’s decision comes after the High Court ruled last December that children under 16 with “gender dysphoria” who are considering gender reassignment likely cannot give informed consent to medical treatment involving the use of life-changing, hormone-blocking drugs and that doctors should seek authorization from the court before administering such treatments, the BBC reports.
Last week, the Court of Appeals sided with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust — Britain’s principal “gender identity development” service for children — that brought the case before the court, which ultimately ruled that it was inappropriate for the High Court to have guided medical decisions regarding puberty blockers in young people. Instead, the court said that doctors should be allowed to exercise their professional judgment in deciding whether the children have the capacity to consent.
While admitting the issue is a “difficult and complex” one of the Court of Appeals judges said that it’s ultimately up to “the clinicians to exercise their judgment knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances.”
Those who have ardently opposed the use of hormone blockers on children — and there is no shortage of opponents — have argued that the drugs can render individuals infertile, decrease bone density, and have long-term, irreversible effects on sexual function. Many of their concerns have been backed up by scientific data, as well.
In December of 2020, California endocrinologist Dr. Michael Laidlaw cited a study on hormone blockers administered to 12-15-year-old gender-dysphoric children which revealed a “massive decrease in bone density of patients relative to their peers”.
“The graph shows the baseline spine bone density and then the decrease over time,” Dr. Laidlaw wrote in a post to social media.
On the other hand, proponents of “hormone therapy” often argue that children with gender dysphoria who do not receive hormone blockers are at greater risk for suicide than their peers that do take the drugs. Their claims, however, don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Dr. Paul Hruz, a pediatric endocrinologist, says: “There’s a very good reason to be concerned about the outcome, specifically that some of the largest studies that have been done with the longest follow-up have shown that suicide rates remain markedly elevated after you undergo these affirmation interventions.”
Last fall, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a correction to a 2019 Swedish study that erroneously concluded that “gender-affirming hormone treatment” and “gender-affirming surgeries” can provide mental health benefits to individuals who claim to be transgender.
On the heels of the study’s correction, family physician Dr. Andre Van Mol of the American College of Pediatricians, endocrinologist Dr. Michael Laidlaw, and psychiatrists Dr. Miriam Grossman and Dr. Paul McHugh published an article at the Public Discourse, where they mention the authors of the Swedish study had been forced to retract their original conclusion following reanalysis of the data.