Breaking News: Endocrine Society Celebrates UK Court of Appeal Decision to Preserve Access to Gender-Affirming Care

The Endocrine Society applauded the Court of Appeal’s ruling that transgender and gender diverse teenagers are competent to give consent to treatment to delay puberty.

The decision overturns the court’s December 2020 ruling in Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Health Foundation. The ruling preserves access to medical treatment for transgender and gender diverse teenagers and protects the ability of physicians, not the courts, to determine the capacity of a person under 16 to consent to medical treatment.

The Endocrine Society and a coalition of LGBTQ+ youth and reproductive health organizations argued in a joint submission to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales that transgender teenagers should be able to give informed consent to treatment the same way teenagers with other medical conditions can.

“We are pleased the court agreed that the rules governing consent must be applied the same way to transgender and gender diverse adolescents as they are to other adolescents who are making decisions about medical care,” says Sabine Hannema, MD, PhD, a paediatric endocrinologist at Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands, a co-author of the Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline on Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons and a co-author of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health statement responding to the Bell v Tavistock ruling.

“We hope this ruling will set a precedent protecting access to care for transgender teenagers in the United Kingdom and in other countries,” Hannema says.

The interveners in the case included Gendered Intelligence, a community interest group for trans youth, and youth sexual health organization Brook, as well as the Endocrine Society. The intervention was supported by the Good Law Project’s Legal Defence Fund for Transgender Lives.

Leading international medical organizations — including the Endocrine Society, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the European Society of Endocrinology, the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology, and the Pediatric Endocrine Society — agree on the appropriate care for transgender people. Scientific studies support the concept that biological factors, in addition to environmental ones, contribute to the development of gender identity. The Court referred to the Endocrine Society’s clinical practice guidelines on gender dysphoria/gender incongruence as the relevant national and international guidelines on which Tavistock relied.

Gender-affirming care, as part of a multidisciplinary approach, is widely accepted as standard practice for transgender and gender diverse teenagers. Prior to puberty, transgender children are encouraged to explore their gender identity. A mental health professional can provide support in this process. After transgender and gender diverse minors start puberty, prescribing hormones to delay puberty is the recommended strategy after careful screening, if it is desired by the patient and if diagnostic and treatment criteria are met.

Scientific research shows that delaying puberty and providing teens with access to gender-affirming hormone therapy, when administered by a trained professional following a thorough assessment, improves psychological functioning and is potentially lifesaving. A June 2020 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that transgender and gender diverse youth who had started treatment to delay puberty had lower suicidality and improved psychological functioning, comparable to the general population, while those who had not yet begun treatment were found to have higher psychological problem scores and increased rates of suicidality.

The treatment to delay puberty in a reversible manner gives adolescents more time to explore their options.

More information is available in the Society’s transgender health position statement and fact sheet on health care for transgender minors.

You may also like

  • Conversation Starters: Solutions to Overcome Health Disparities in Latinx Communities

    Language and cultural barriers are often a challenge when treating underserved Hispanic populations, which was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ricardo Correa, MD, EdD, and Licy L. Yanes Cardozo, MD, tell Endocrine News how to improve care delivery to these patients, and how the solutions could be simpler than you think. Last month,…

  • Endocrine Society Experts Recommend Individualized Approach to Use of Telehealth  

    Policy perspective explores factors to maximize effectiveness of telehealth Following rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits are expected to remain an important part of endocrine care, according to a new Endocrine Society policy perspective published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.   Health care providers need to consider a variety of…

Find more in