US doctors and professors demand an end to conversion therapy

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, doctors and professors from various American institutions called for an end to the dangerous practice.

Doctor and nurse sitting at table. It is important for doctors to educate themselves on conversion therapy and other issues facing LGBT+ community.

Doctors and university professors are calling for an end to conversion therapy in the United States. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine denounced it as a “harmful practice”.

The article, titled Changing Medical Practice, Not Patients — Putting an End to Conversion Therapy, highlights the need for medical professionals to continuously educate themselves on “issues relevant to LGBTQ patients, including on the ramifications of conversion therapy”. 

Medical officials should be able to provide supportive therapies and provide accurate information and resources for all LGBT+ patients and their families, according to a draft of the U.S Joint Statement on Conversion Therapy. The Statement is being prepared by multiple health care organisations.

While same-sex marriage is legalised in all 50 US States, conversion therapy is also still legal in 32 states. According to a report from the Williams Institute, it is estimated that 20,000 LGBT+ young adults will be subjected to the dangerous practice by the time they reach age 18, even worse, it will all be in the presence of a licensed health care professional. 

In 2018, the Family Acceptance Project, a group working to prevent physical and mental harm to young LGBT+ people, reported that people who have undergone conversion therapy after being encouraged by their parents or caregivers had higher rates of depression and suicidal tendencies. 

Michael Ferguson, one of the article’s co-authors, had undergone seven therapy programs, most of which were linked to the Mormon Church. In the landmark case Ferguson V JONAH, a jury in New Jersey ruled a group offering gay conversion therapy violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. 

Though the article focuses on the US healthcare system and cases, conversion therapy aiming to alter a person’s sexuality is a global issue. The ‘unethical’ practice leaves substantial physical and emotional trauma in its wake, forcing LGBT+ people to believe there is something wrong with them. 

By calling on other physicians to educate themselves on how they can support the LGBT+ community in this area, the article shines a light on a crucial ongoing issue.

In 2010, Cormac O’Brien, a GCN journalist, went undercover to attend the Courage “support group”. In GCN Issue 249, he wrote, “Courage accepts people indiscriminately into its ranks because of a concept of homosexuality as something intrinsically wrong. Its organisers don’t take the time to consider any of the myriad reasons why an individual might feel uncomfortable and unhappy with his or her sexual orientation.” 

Some attitudes in Ireland towards the dangerous practice are still problematic. As recently as March of this year, Ronan Mullen, an Irish senator, stated that “conversion therapy should be an option”.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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