Debbie Hayton Debbie Hayton

The damning verdict on puberty blocker treatment for trans children

(Getty images)

If the Keira Bell judgment did not sufficiently expose the shortcomings of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) – the only NHS clinic in England for children presenting with gender dysphoria – then another recent study published after that key ruling must surely now trigger a full-blown inquiry.

The study followed the progress of 44 children referred by GIDS for puberty blockers when they were aged between 12 and 15. All except one – 98 per cent of the cohort – progressed to cross sex-hormones. The lead author was Dr Polly Carmichael, GIDS director. The research has yet to be peer reviewed, but let’s be clear: this was a study of patients at GIDS, and the results were reported by the director of the clinic herself. So was this information shared with the high court judges who heard Keira Bell’s case? 

It would seem not. In their decision, Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s bench division, Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Lieven expressed surprise that ‘GIDS did not obtain full data showing the figures and the proportion of those on puberty blockers who remain within GIDS and move on to cross-sex hormones’. While the study obviously does not include every child seen by GIDS, the information it contains would undoubtedly have been useful to the high court. 

For one, it would have made it difficult for GIDS to maintain the delusion that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are separate treatments. According to a passage in the high court judgement:

‘GIDS and the (NHS) Trust place reliance on the fact that Stage 1 treatment with PBs (puberty blockers) and Stage 2 treatment (Cross-Sex Hormones) are separate. Thus, so it is said, it is possible for a young person to come off the PBs at any point and not proceed to taking CSH’. 

It is rather harder to defend that claim when 98 per cent of those mentioned in this latest study remained on a conveyor belt from one to the other.

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