Treatment for gender dysphoria in children : the new legal, ethical and clinical landscape

Smith, Malcolm K. & Mathews, Ben (2015) Treatment for gender dysphoria in children : the new legal, ethical and clinical landscape. Medical Journal of Australia, 202(2), pp. 102-105.

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  • Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a child's subjectively felt identity and gender are not congruent with her or his biological sex. Because of this, the child suffers clinically significant distress or impairment in social functioning.

  • The Family Court of Australia has recently received an increasing number of applications seeking authorisation for the provision of hormones to treat gender dysphoria in children.

  • Some medical procedures and interventions performed on children are of such a grave nature that court authorisation must be obtained to render them lawful. These procedures are referred to as special medical procedures.

  • Hormonal therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria in children is provided in two stages occurring years apart. Until recently, both stages of treatment were regarded by courts as special medical treatments, meaning court authorisation had to be provided for both stages.

  • In a significant recent development, courts have drawn a distinction between the two stages of treatment, permitting parents to consent to the first stage. In addition, it has been held that a child who is determined by a court to be Gillick competent can consent to stage 2 treatment.

  • The new legal developments concerning treatment for gender dysphoria are of ethical, clinical and practical importance to children and their families, and to medical practitioners treating children with gender dysphoria. Medical practitioners should benefit from an understanding of the recent developments in legal principles. This will ensure that they have up-to-date information about the circumstances under which treatment may be conducted with parental consent, and those in which they must seek court authorisation.

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ID Code: 81214
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: gender dysphoria, consent and children, hormone treatment, cross-gender hormone therapy, childhood gender dypshoria, gender identity disorder, legal developments, Re Jamie, transgender law
DOI: 10.5694/mja14.00624
ISSN: 1326-5377
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > OTHER LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (189900)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Deposited On: 28 Jan 2015 03:29
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 22:31

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