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Trans children are ‘coached’ into giving answers to access puberty blockers, Court of Appeal hears

Psychiatrists fear transgender children are being ‘coached’ into giving rehearsed answers to access puberty blockers, Court of Appeal hears

  • Former NHS trust boss fears parents and friends put children under pressure 
  • NHS changed guidance over ‘puberty blockers’ after landmark ruling last year 
  • Children should not be allowed blockers unless they understand long-term risks 
  • Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is appealing the High Court ruling  

Children may be being ‘coached’ into giving rehearsed answers in order to access puberty blockers, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Dr David Bell, a former governor at a gender identity NHS trust, said transgender children may be put under pressure by parents, friends or online material when dealing with feelings of gender dysphoria.

A psychiatrist Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for almost 25 years until this month, Dr Bell has now been given permission to intervene in a landmark legal case to decide whether transgender children can legally take puberty blockers.

Keira Bell’s landmark case last year saw the High Court agree children should not be given puberty blockers unless they understand the long-term risks and consequences. Ms Bell started taking them aged 16 after she was allowed them by Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, but later decided to reverse her gender transition

The Trust launched an appeal against a High Court ruling from November which ruled that children should not be allowed the blockers unless they understand their ‘long-term risks and consequences’.

At the time, the NHS changed its guidance overnight without a court order.

Dr Bell, described as a ‘high profile whistleblower’ in legal papers after investigating ‘serious concerns’ at the Trust over the use of blockers in August 2018, said he felt ‘victimised for whistleblowing’ and so did not participate in the initial High Court battle. 

A report also found Tavistock’s gender identity clinic was ‘not fit for purpose,’ warning some young patients will ‘live on with the damaging consequences’. 

His intervention, which will include concerns raised to him by practitioners that children may have been coached to provide rehearsed answers, will be heard over two days in April. 

After retiring on January 15, however, he feels is ‘is no longer subject to the same constraints’, the legal documents claim, but ‘there is evidence that staff members may be frightened of coming forwards’.

‘Dr Bell, a highly eminent psychiatrist who until recently occupied a senior position with the Appellant, is now free from his employment and able to describe the concerns, which he investigated in some detail,’ it adds.

Dr David Bell, a former governor at Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, will give evidence against its appeal in April, as he warns some children are being ‘coached,’ into giving answers by parents to obtain puberty blockers 

As well as the possibility of pressure on children, ‘highly complex factors’ such as family bereavement could influence attitudes towards gender, the documents say.

Last year’s case against the NHS Trust was launched by Keira Bell, who took puberty blockers at 16 before deciding to reverse the process of changing gender seven years later. 

She said she should have been challenged more over her decision. 

Lawyers for ‘Mrs A’, the mother of a 15-year-old girl on the waiting list for treatment, said children going through puberty are ‘not capable of properly understanding the nature and effects of hormone blockers’. 

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