Treating children for gender dysphoria: Bell v Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust


Bell & Anor v The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust [2021] EWCA Civ 1363 has little, ostensibly, to do with “religion”, but relates to an issue which some would feel had moral and social dimensions – the treatment of children for gender dysphoria, defined by the Court of Appeal as

“a complex condition that occurs in both children and adults. It involves, in the simplest terms, a strong desire to be and to be treated as being of the gender other than their natal sex at birth. Those diagnosed with it suffer associated significant distress or impairment in function. A range of clinical interventions may be prescribed” [2].

The Trust (“Tavistock”) operates a Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) for patients up to the age of 18 suffering from gender dysphoria, and the Court noted that

“The treatment of children for gender dysphoria is controversial. Medical opinion is far from unanimous about the wisdom of embarking on treatment before adulthood. The question raises not only clinical medical issues but also moral and ethical issues, all of which are the subject of intense professional and public debate” [3].

The first claimant in the judicial review proceedings was a former patient of Tavistock who had been treated with puberty blockers as a 16-year old, had begun surgical intervention as an adult to transition from female to male, and had ended her treatment having changed her mind. The second was the mother of a child with gender dysphoria who had been referred to Tavistock but had not yet had an appointment [4]. Continue reading