LGBT+ equality

Liberty: trans children have the right to healthcare

Posted on 23 Jun 2021

The ability for everyone to choose and receive healthcare is a human right which has repeatedly been upheld in international case law.

  • Liberty intervenes in Court of Appeal case over puberty blockers treatment for trans children and young people
  • Human rights group says life-affirming treatment must be accessible
  • Restricting treatment access for trans children and young people is discriminatory, it warns

Liberty has intervened in the Court of Appeal hearing over access to puberty blockers for trans children, saying that enabling children to access treatment is both life-affirming and a human right.

The case is an appeal of a Divisional Court judgement which, overturning long-held legal principles about child autonomy, ruled that trans children under the age of 16 should be presumed not to be able to consent themselves to treatment with puberty blockers, and a court order should instead be obtained. The Court also recommended a court order be obtained for those aged 16 and 17.

In its intervention in the appeal, Liberty said that the ability for everyone, including children, to choose and receive healthcare is a human right which has repeatedly been upheld in international case law.

The human rights group warned that to restrict trans children’s access to puberty blockers – particularly when the same treatment is available for other conditions on the basis of a child’s consent – is discriminatory and breaches Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Liberty also warned that without access to treatment, the risk of serious, long-term harm for trans children seriously increases.

The intervention stated that the impact of the previous Divisional Court ruling has been felt worldwide – with legislatures in the United States, and courts in Australia and Canada all citing the judgment, and making restrictions on trans children’s rights more likely.

Also intervening in the case are Brook, Gendered Intelligence and the Endocrine Society, UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and The Association of Lawyers for Children.

Megan Goulding, Liberty lawyer who worked on the case, said: “Everyone should be able to choose and receive the healthcare they need. Access to treatment is life-affirming for trans children and young people – without it the risk of serious, long-term harm dramatically increases.”

Gracie Bradley, Liberty director, said: “Liberty has a long and proud history of standing up for trans rights – and today is no different. This case has implications for trans children not just in the UK, but also all over the world. Other countries have already started using the UK ruling to restrict trans rights – we now have a chance to stop that.

“This case could also impact the ability of all children and young people to choose and receive healthcare – something which would be a regressive step that any rights’ respecting society should be loudly and fiercely rejecting.”

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