Taxpayers to foot bill for sex changes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 December, 1998, 12:00am

Transsexuals have won the right to receive sex changes at the British taxpayer's expense.

The ruling has angered local health authorities running the National Health Service, some of which have banned their hospitals from providing what they see as non-essential treatment on a par with tattoo removal and other cosmetic surgery.

The High Court in London found health authorities' refusal to fund the operations - costing between GBP7,000 (HK$91,000) and GBP9,000, 'unlawful and irrational'.

Three transsexuals, one aged 21 and two aged 50, brought their cases to court after a health authority decided none had shown an overriding clinical need for treatment.

Medical specialists said the surgery was vital to complete their physical transformation from male to female, as all three had physical characteristics belonging to both sexes after beginning sex-change treatment through hormone therapy.

The NHS is battling to cope with a rising workload, with some people waiting more than 12 months for an operation.