Keira Bell ruling: Who gets the hot potato next?

At first glance, the ruling of the High Court in the Keira Bell case seems simple: the decision of the lower court was reversed.

However, it is actually a highly nuanced and technical ruling, in which one sentence in particular packs a lot of punch:

Clinicians would be alive to the possibility of regulatory or civil action which allows the issue of whether consent has been properly obtained to be tested in individual cases. 

-UK Court of Appeal

What this means is that the Court has passed the hot potato back to the clinicians. Each child is different, and consequently each child’s ability to consent is different. 

As long as the field of medicine in question has no specific legislation, the Court has no option but to rule case by case. However, the critical sentence above sends a clear signal: Government can still step in to resolve this issue.

Failing that, further cases may be brought. With every child being different, a new case would have its own specificities, with its own implications for consent.

It’s easy to get lost in all the technicalities of UK case law. As the thicket grows ever denser, the pressure mounts on politicians to act. 

With the ongoing Cass Review and a growing body of unbiased international research, including the UK’s own National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) analysis of puberty blockers – which found the evidence for puberty blockers “very low” (their words) – the potato is only getting hotter.

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