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Monday, December 21, 1998 Published at 18:05 GMT


Transsexuals win sex change case

Monday's High Court ruling went in favour of the transsexuals

Three transsexuals have won their High Court test case over a health authority's refusal to fund sex change surgery.

In the first case of its kind, they overturned North West Lancashire Health Authority's refusal to pay for sex change operations.

Mr Justice Hidden ruled at London's High Court on Monday that the authority's decision was "unlawful and irrational" and had been taken without consideration of what was "the proper treatment of a recognised illness".

The three, described at a hearing in London last month as females trapped in male bodies since birth, had already started "gender reassignment" treatment and were said to be in an "acutely distressed mental and physical state".

They had already started hormone treatment, which was mostly NHS-funded.

But they were refused gender reassignment surgery in 1996 and 1997 after it was decided none of them had shown a demonstrable "overriding clinical need" for treatment.

Final treatment

The hormone treatment had led to irreversible changes in their bodies, including the growth of female breasts, their counsel, Nicholas Blake QC said at a hearing last month.

He accused the health authority of operating an unlawful blanket ban on funding sex change operations since 1995.

The three, who are on legal aid and cannot be named for legal reasons, are already living their lives as women.

[ image: A sex change transformed life for Dana International]
A sex change transformed life for Dana International
They have been referred to as "Miss A", "Miss D" and "Miss G" throughout the case. Miss A had actually undergone three operations before the health authority adopted its policy and all treatment ended.

The three will now receive final treatment and surgery which they say will allow them to live more fully in their female identity. They believe this has always been their true identity.

None could afford the treatment privately, which they said can be as high as £110 an hour.

The authority had said it had a right to consider its "scarce resources" and refuse funding.

But Mr Justice Hidden ruled today that it was not entitled to operate a policy which interfered with its duty to provide treatment "for the prevention of illness and care of persons suffering from an illness".

'Treatment by postcode'

Later Stephen Lodge, solicitor for the three, said: "This is an important test case.

"We have successfully settled a number of previous cases, but this is the first time the issue has been fully considered by the court and we are delighted with the decision.

"Other health authorities will now have to assess whether their policies for the treatment of transsexuals are lawful in the light of this judgment.

"We hope it will be easier for transsexuals to obtain the treatment they so clearly need, and that it will help to alleviate the present injustice of arbitrary and unequal treatment by postcode."

Miss A, who was in court, said: "I am not surprised. It is the end of two years of hard work in fighting this legal battle. They should not have discriminated by post code."

She added: "This legal battle has cost at least £47,000 - enough to pay for several operations."

Gerard Clarke, for the health authority, asked for leave to appeal, saying it was the first case of its kind.

He said: "This is a matter which concerns not only this particular authority but many other authorities.

"This is going to be a matter of considerable importance throughout the health service."

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