Puberty-blocking Drugs

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

7. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on whether puberty-blocking drugs should continue to be administered to children in Scotland. (S5F-04641)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Decisions on treatment pathways are best made by clinicians in consultation with patients, and following all the appropriate guidelines. It is not the role of the Scottish Government to intervene in such decisions.

Young people can be considered for puberty blockers only after thorough psychological and endocrine assessment, as per the clinical guidelines, and anyone who commences them continues to receive regular psychological review and support appointments.

Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

It is interesting that the First Minister does not think that the democratic process and the courts can overrule medical opinion, because that is exactly what happened in the High Court in England last week.

Let me say that I support every child having the right to live their best life, and the medical support to enable them to do so. However, last week’s judgment in the English High Court was specifically about children’s capacity to consent. Law and society do not deem children to have capacity to consent to sex or marriage. Last week, the High Court said that neither do they have the capacity to consent to life-altering, fertility-changing drugs until they are aged 16. However, we know that, in the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, NHS Scotland continues to give such drugs to children as young as 11.

Given her legal background, can the First Minister tell me whether she agrees that children lack the legal capacity to give informed consent to receiving such drugs? If she does, will she use her power to instruct the national health service in Scotland to stop giving them to our children?

The First Minister:

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on court actions or decisions that have occurred in England. As a matter of fact—it is not a matter of opinion—last week’s ruling from the High Court has no formal status in Scotland. In the case of children and adolescents in Scotland, the young people’s service at Sandyford works within the existing guidelines on the treatment of young people to which I referred in my initial answer.

Decisions on types of treatment are for clinicians to make. Jenny Marra referred to my legal background. I have no clinical or medical background, and I think it important that such matters are reserved to clinicians. If the Parliament wants to consider them in a policy sense, it is of course always open to it to do so.

The Presiding Officer:

We turn to supplementary questions.