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Campaigners in plea for ban on Scots kids being given puberty blockers after landmark ruling

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Campaigners have called for a ban on children in Scotland under 16 being given puberty blockers following a landmark court ruling.

Judges at the High Court in London decided young people with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to treatment using the controversial drugs.

Health officials south of the Border immediately suspended their use at the Tavistock Centre, a gender identification development service (GIDS) for youths.

But Scotland’s only gender service for children and young people, The Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic – part of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) – has said it will still use the drugs, which stop the body from developing.

Sandyford Clinic said it will still use the drugs, which stop the body from developing

Campaign group For Women Scotland, set up in response to the Scottish Government’s plan to make it easier for people to legally change their gender, hit out at the decision.

A spokeswoman said: “We’re concerned the Sandyford didn’t take the time to weigh up the full implications of the judgment.

“We’ve requested that the Scottish Government undertake a review similar to that in England and Wales.

“We consider this a matter of urgency before vulnerable children endure more uncertainty or potentially harmful treatment.”

The High Court decision followed a legal challenge brought by a woman who began taking the drugs aged 16 before “detransitioning”.

Keira Bell, 23, took action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the GIDS for children in England and Wales.

Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven, said it’s “highly unlikely” that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers.

They also said it is “doubtful” a child aged 14 or 15 could understand long-term risks and consequences and that 16 and 17-year-olds may have to seek a court’s permission before undergoing treatment.

Keira, of Cambridge, started taking puberty blockers before moving on to cross-hormone drugs including testosterone and had a double mastectomy at the age of 20 before she detransitioned.

Vic Valentine is policy officer at the Scottish Trans Alliance

She claimed she was not able to give proper consent to treatment at such a young age and was not offered any psychological help by the clinic before starting a drug regime.

After the ruling, the Tavistock suspended new referrals and launched a wider review on the future of its services.

NHS England updated its guidance to reflect the judgment, so “no one under the age of 16 can now be referred for puberty blockers unless a court rules it is in the child’s best interests”.

Latest Sandyford figures show referrals of children aged between four and 10 rose by more than 80 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Those referred aged 11 to 16 increased from 198 in 2017 to 264 in 2018. Children aged four to 10 rose from 18 to 33.

An NHSGCC spokeswoman said the Sandyford would not accept referrals for treatment from England.

She added: “Young people are considered for puberty blockers after thorough psychological and endocrine assessment as per Scottish clinical guidelines.

“Anyone who commences puberty blockers continues to receive regular psychological review and support appointments.”

A Holyrood spokeswoman said the Scottish Government would “consider the detail” of the ruling.

She added: “The Young People’s Gender Service at Sandyford follows guidelines from the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

“This is in common with current practice of other European centres working with children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.”

Vic Valentine, of the Scottish Trans Alliance, said: “Every young person deserves the chance to have informed decisions made about their healthcare, and trans young people should be treated no differently.”

Labour MSP Jenny Marra called for a ban on clinicians prescribing puberty blockers to children.

She said: “We’re administering life-altering drugs to children.

“Do we wait until someone has the time, money and courage to bring a court case, or take a policy decision to protect children until they’re old enough to make these decisions?”

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/campaigners-plea-ban-kids-gender-23121895

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