Children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, three High Court judges have ruled.
The case was brought against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which said it was “disappointed” but immediately suspended such referrals for under-16s.
The NHS said it “welcomed the clarity” the ruling would bring.
One of the claimants, Keira Bell, said she was “delighted” by the judgment.
Ms Bell, 23, from Cambridge, had been referred to the Tavistock Centre, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), as a teenager and was prescribed puberty blockers aged 16.
She argued the clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager
In a ruling Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven, said:
“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers.
“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.”
“In respect of young persons aged 16 and over, the legal position is that there is a presumption that they have the ability to consent to medical treatment.
“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 recognise that clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorisation of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment.”