By Nick Collins, London Telegraph
Children as young as nine are to be prescribed drugs which delay the onset of puberty as the first step towards a sex change operation, according to reports.
The treatment will be offered by one NHS trust to children who are so troubled by their gender that they may wish to undergo drastic surgery after adolescence, according to the Mail on Sunday.
But the decision was attacked by critics who described the decision to offer the treatment at such a young age as “horrifying” and called for an immediate investigation.
Monthly injections of the drugs, known as hypothalamic blockers, are used to slow the development of the children’s sexual organs by blocking the production of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen.
In boys this prevents the voice from lowering and the development of facial hair, while in girls it stops the menstrual cycle and breast development, in each case making any future sex change operation simpler.
Doctors at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said a trial of the treatment on “gender dysphoria” patients aged 12 to 14 had been successful and it could now be offered even earlier.
Dr Polly Carmichael, who led the trial, said future treatment would be offered based on “stage not age”, meaning it could be offered to younger children than those who took part in the trial.
“We’re talking about stopping puberty in the normal range of puberty, so I guess the younger age might be nine or ten,” she said.
Only children who meet certain criteria, including having permission from their parents and no mental health problems, will be eligible, she added.
Mark Pritchard, the Conservative MP, called for an investigation into the trust’s decision to provide the treatment at such a young age, especially at a time when budgets for life-saving cancer drugs are being squeezed.
His colleague Andrew Percy added: “I think many people will be horrified at the thought of a nine-year-old being provided with a drug that effectively stops them developing and maturing naturally.”
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