By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, March 26 (Openly) - Britain's High Court ruled on Friday that parents will be allowed to give consent for their children to take puberty-delaying drugs during gender identity treatment without having to gain a judge's approval.
Late last year, the same court ruled that under-16s were unlikely to be able to give informed consent to such medication, and doctors must now get a so-called "best interests order" from a judge to prescribe the drugs to adolescent patients.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a U.S.-based body of doctors specialised in treating trans people, has said puberty-blocking drugs can be used to help alleviate gender dysphoria and give children time to consider future options.
Medical experts have warned, however, that the medication could lead to lower bone density and might hamper bone growth, and the drugs used are controversial.
On Friday, judge Nathalie Lieven said "the parents' right to consent to treatment on behalf of the child continues even when the child is Gillick competent to make the decision".
Gillick competence is a process that determines whether a child under the age of 16 is able to give consent to a medical procedure without parental approval.
Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs England's only youth gender identity clinic and was named as a respondent in the case, welcomed Friday's judgment.
"(We) are working with NHS England to work out how it will impact our processes going forward," a spokeswoman said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The case was brought by a couple who sought to challenge the December ruling in the case of Keira Bell and win the right to give consent for their child to be able to take the puberty-delaying treatment.
Bell, 23, took legal action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust after regretting taking puberty blockers at the age of 16 that she feared may have damaged her ability to have children.
Backed by campaign group The Good Law Project, the parents in the new case argued that they should be able to consent to their child's treatment without having to go to the courts.
In a statement on its website, The Good Law Project said the decision was "hugely significant".
"It is not unreasonable to describe this morning's decision as in large part reversing the practical effects of Bell."
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(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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