News from Europe

UK court rules parents can consent to puberty blockers on behalf of children

A British high court has ruled that parents are allowed to consent for their minor children to take puberty blockers as part of gender identity services without first acquiring a judge's approval. According to Reuters, the decision was handed down last Friday.


It came months after the same court held that children under the age of sixteen were not mature enough to give informed consent to such experimental medicalisation, particularly because of the consequences to their long-term health.

That ruling also required doctors to obtain what is known as a “best interests” order from a judge to prescribe such drugs to teenagers. At issue in the case was the “Gillick competence” test, which holds that parental rights in the United Kingdom that pertain to medical treatment end when the child achieves enough understanding and intelligence to understand what is being proposed.

The Gillick standard, from which the competence phrase is derived, centres around a 1985 case that was decided in the House of Lords. In Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, lawmakers debated whether an under-sixteen minor could be prescribed contraception without parental consent.

Judge Nathalie Lieven said Friday that “the parents’ right to consent to treatment on behalf of the child continues even when the child is Gillick competent to make the decision.”

In response to the ruling, the medical facility named as a respondent in the case, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust — the lone youth gender identity clinic in the U.K. — said in a statement that it’s “working with NHS England to work out how it will impact our processes going forward.”


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