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John McKendrick QC appears in Bell v Tavistock in the Court of Appeal


John McKendrick QC (instructed by John Holmes at Hempsons) acted for the First and Second Interveners in Bell v Tavistock And Portman NHS Foundation Trust [2021] EWCA Civ 1363.

On 17 September, the Court of Appeal held that doctors can decide whether children under 16 can give informed consent to puberty blocker use. This judgment reverses the High Court ruling that individuals under 16 normally lacked the capacity to give informed consent to the treatment of puberty blockers, which delays the onset of puberty.
The appeal was brought by the Tavistock Trust (supported by John’s clients), which has operated a Gender Identity Development Service for patients up to the age of 18 suffering from gender dysphoria since 1989.

The Court of Appeal held that the High Court should not have: (a) made a declaration about the relevant information that a child under 16 would have to understand, retain and weigh up in order to have the requisite competence in relation to puberty blockers; or (b) given its guidance on likely Gillick competence to give consent and, in relation to children and young people, on court involvement. The Court of Appeal concluded that “applications to the court may well be appropriate in specific difficult cases, but it was not appropriate to give guidance as to when such circumstances might arise”.

The Court recognised “the difficulties and complexities” of the issue, but found that “it is for the clinicians to exercise their judgement knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances”.

Judgment and press

The judgment can be read here and a BBC article can be read here. The decision has been widely reported in the UK and around the world.

Find out more

John McKendrick QC has an extensive public, administrative and medical law practice. He is experienced in the fields of mental capacity, mental health, financial services, prisons, procurement, regulatory and education law. He has an extensive practice before the Court of Protection, where he has been involved in many of the landmark cases determining capacity, deprivation of liberty and serious medical treatment. To find out more, contact Sam Carter on +44 (0)203 989 6669 or Paul Barton on +44 (0)20 7427 4907.

News 30 Sep, 2021

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John McKendrick QC

Call: 1999 Silk: 2016

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