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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK


Health

Landmark transsexual ruling upheld



Three transsexuals have reached what they hope is the end of a long legal battle to have their health authority pay for their sex change surgery.

The ruling confirms gender reassignment therapy as a necessary medical treatment rather than a cosmetic procedure - meaning it should be available on the NHS.

The three won a High Court case against last North West Lancashire Health Authority last December, when Mr Justice Hidden said the authority's refusal to pay was "unlawful and irrational" and had been taken without consideration of what was "the proper treatment of a recognised illness".

The authority appealed, but on Thursday the Court of Appeal upheld the original ruling.

Trapped

Known only as A, D and G to protect their identities, the three were described as females trapped in male bodies since birth.

They had already started "gender reassignment" treatment - mostly involving hormones - but in 1996 and 1997 were refused surgery after it was decided none of them had shown a demonstrable "overriding clinical need" for treatment.

Lord Justice Auld said in Thursday's judgement: "The health authority's policy in my view, is flawed in two important respects.

"Firstly it does not in truth treat transsexualism as an illness but as an attitude or state of mind which does not warrant medical treatment."

The second flaw was that it amounted to a blanket ban based on the authority's distaste for the procedure.

'Money wasted'

Stephen Lodge, a solicitor for Tyndallwoods, which represented the three, said after the hearing that the appeal had delayed his clients' treatment.

"The money (the health authority has) spent on this case could have gone towards treating our clients. We trust that now the health authority will reconsider its policy and agree to fund our clients' treatment without further delay."

He said the decision represented a "landmark in the continuing struggle for legal recognition" of the transsexuals' rights.

David Edmundson, chief executive of the authority, said: "We have always had sympathy for the applicants, but that has always been constrained by the funds available and our priorities.

"We didn't enter into this light-heartedly and we have always felt our policies were reasonable.

"This was never done just because of the cost of the treatment. We are saying that we have so much money and we have to ensure it is used as effectively as possible."

'Overdue victory'

Christine Burns, spokeswoman for the transsexual rights group Press for Change, said the victory was "long overdue".

"It at last shows common sense in realising that this is a medical condition for which this is the only treatment that works," she said.

"This is not something that is entered into lightly. People who get to the stage of being ready for surgery have been through many years of other treatment."

She said that less than two in 10 people who came forward for treatment reached the stage of going onto surgery.



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Relevant Stories

21 Dec 98 | Health
Transsexuals win sex change case

09 Nov 98 | Health
Transsexuals fight NHS sex change ban

01 Sep 98 | UK
Transsexual man jailed in women's prison





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