A question of Autonomy – Gillick Competency and Transgender Youth

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  • Released 4th Aug 2022
  • Shane Robson
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Gillick Competency is based on the 1985 decision of the House of Lords in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority. It was a landmark decision in that the case dealt with issues of confidentiality, consent as well as parent-to-child relationships, and the role of the law in protecting the autonomy of patients with capacity. In 2020, the question of Gillick was raised specifically for the consideration of Trans youth.

Children and young people have a multitude of recognised human rights. The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates much of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. People aged 16 or over are entitled to consent to their own treatment. This can only be overruled in exceptional circumstances.

The question in consideration here is looking objectively, at the decision and the reversal of the decision which asks why the question was asked to determine whether children below the age of 18 are competent to give consent to puberty blockers and why this treatment should be treated any different to that other medical interventions, should trans youth be treated differently to others.

An ideal time to re-examine Gillick in light of changes in societal views.

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Learning objectives:

  • Highlight the importance of Gillick competence.
  • Understander the decision in Bell and another v The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the reason for its reveral in the court of appeal.
  • Consider the protections of Trans Youth in the legal system.



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Shane Robson

Academic Support Officer • Law Training Centre

Shane is the Academic Support Officer at Law Training centre and a university lecturer based in the West Midlands. He has a First class degree in Law and Practice and a Masters degree in International Law. He teaches students from foundation level to Degree level and also teaches on the CILEx professional law courses.

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