May 28, 2024

The hottest topic around

It’s hard to think of a more volatile topic than transgender transitions for children entering puberty. The number of kids demanding puberty-blockers so that they can transition to the opposite sex is exploding all over the developed world. It’s a mysterious and poorly understood phenomenon which involves a range of bioethical issues.

Is gender dysphoria really a medical issue at all? Or is it just a waystation on a spectrum of sexualities? How do we decide? Is it ethical to offer treatments which have yet to prove their efficacy? Is it ethical to offer treatments which will have negative side-effects? How can children make decisions which will affect their whole lives without understanding the medical, sexual and psychological implications? There is enough here to fill a library with contending points of view.

But this is far from being a theoretical issue. Children with gender dysphoria are suffering now. Who is to decide how can they be best cared for? A bioethicist writing in the American Journal of Bioethics effectively argues that parents are not the best judges. (See article below.) They are in the same position as loving, well-intentioned parents who want to use herbal remedies for their child’s cancer. Doctors, backed by governments, should decide. The state has to step in to save the child from suffering and even death.

It’s a controversial, even incendiary, point of view. But that is the way the debate is heading. We can expect to hear more, much more, in the future.

Michael Cook
Who should decide whether children should receive puberty blockers?