A suspended Welsh GP has vowed to continue prescribing puberty blockers to children despite a High Court court ruling that under-16s are unlikely to be able to fully consent to the “experimental” treatment.
On Tuesday, December 1, three judges ruled it was “highly unlikely” children under 13 were mature enough to consent to the treatment and it was “doubtful” that 14 and 15-year-olds could “weigh the long-term risks and consequences”, the Times reports.
The judgement means court approval will be needed before puberty blockers can be prescribed to children in Wales and England who are confused about their gender identity.
However Dr Helen Webberley of Abergavenny, who runs the clinic GenderGP which treats children in the UK through doctors based in Europe, insisted her consent process was “robust”.
In a live stream on Facebook she confirmed she would be “continuing to prescribe blockers for people who are on blockers and continuing to prescribe new blockers for anybody who is able to give consent to that treatment”.
Webberley was barred from practising in the UK after she was convicted of running an unlicensed practice treating 1,600 transgender patients and gender dysphoric children from her home. She was fined £12,000 in December 2018 after a judge said there was a “clear refusal to follow the law” while the regulator said she posed a risk to patient safety.
It was found that between March 2017 and February 2018 the firm had operated without a licence after it was refused by watchdog Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. During that time Dr Webberley gave hormones to children as young as 12 who had been denied treatment on the NHS and offered advice online to patients looking to undergo gender reassignment.
But the doctor, who was given an interim suspension by the General Medical Council in November 2018, moved online clinic GenderGP – run by her and husband Mike Webberley – to Malaga in Spain to allow their 1,600 patients to continue to receive treatment.
GenderGP is currently treating patients using a legal loophole which means drugs prescribed by doctors in the European Economic Area can be dispensed in the UK allowing young people to bypass some NHS safeguards and waiting lists.
Webberley claimed last week that puberty blockers were “reversible, well-evidenced, and safe” despite the High Court ruling their use in gender dysphoric children could have “potential lifelong and life-changing consequences”.
“GenderGP will stand firm for the rights of children, adolescents, adults, elderly folk, anybody, and will keep fighting for as long as it’s needed,” Webberley said.
Writing on the website PinkNews.co.uk, she added: “The medical evidence – that these interventions are beneficial – is clear and it is vital to consider both the long-term effects of having treatment as well as those of not having that treatment.
“Today there will be many young trans people and their loved ones who will be frightened for what the future holds.”
As well as being prescribed by clinics based overseas puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are sold on the internet by illegal online pharmacies.
The High Court case was brought against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), by claimants Keira Bell, 23, who was prescribed puberty blockers by the Tavistock, and the mother of an 15-year-old girl with autism awaiting treatment at the clinic who argued that puberty blockers should only be given to under-18s with court approval.
Keira, who said she had hot flushes, “brain fog”, and other symptoms after starting blockers, went on to take testosterone and have a double mastectomy at 20 but now lives as a woman after “detransitioning”.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs England’s only specialist gender service for young people, has suspended new referrals for puberty blockers for under-16s and is reviewing existing patients’ cases.
The General Pharmaceutical Council, which regulates pharmacies in England, Wales and Scotland, said: “We are carefully considering Tuesday’s High Court ruling and any actions we should take as the pharmacy regulator.”