The Sunday Telegraph

Belgium and Netherland­s question puberty blockers

- By James Crisp EUROPE EDITOR

BELGIUM and the Netherland­s have questioned the use of puberty blockers on children after the Cass Review warned of a lack of research on the gender treatment’s long-term effects.

Britain has become the fifth European nation to restrict the use of the drug to under 18s after initially making them part of their gender treatments.

Their use was based on the “Dutch protocol”, the term used for the practice pioneered in the Netherland­s in 1998 and copied around the world, of treating gender dysphoric youth using puberty blockers.

The NHS stopped prescribin­g the drug, meant to curb the trauma of a body maturing into a gender the patient does not identify with, this month.

In Belgium, doctors have called for gender treatment rules to be changed.

“In our opinion, Belgium must reform gender care in children and adolescent­s following the example of Sweden and Finland, where hormones are regarded as the last resort,” the report by three paediatric­ians and psychiatri­sts in Leuven said.

Figures from the Netherland­s and the United Kingdom show that more than 95 per cent of individual­s who initiated puberty inhibition continue with gender-affirming treatments,” the report by P Vankrunkel­sven P, K Casteels K and J De Vleminck said.

“However, when young people with gender dysphoria go through their natural puberty, these feelings will only persist in about 15 per cent.”

The report was published after a 60 per cent rise in the number of Belgium teenagers taking the blockers to stop the developmen­t of their bodies. In 2022, 684 people between the ages of nine and 17 were prescribed the drug compared to 432 in 2019, the De Morgen newspaper reported in 2019.

Pressure is also building in the neighbouri­ng Netherland­s to look again at their use. The parliament has ordered research into the impact of puberty blockers on adolescent’s physical and mental health. The Telegraph understand­s that the Amsterdam Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria, where the protocol originated, is set to make a statement on the use of puberty blockers next week.

“I too thought that the Dutch gender care was very careful and evidence-based. But now I don’t think that any more,” Jilles Smids, a postdoctor­al researcher in medical ethics at Erasmus University in the Netherland­s, told The Atlantic.

The Cass Review said that the NHS had moved away from the restrictio­ns of the original Dutch Protocol.

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