Southern Legal Counsel and the National Centre for Lesbian Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Jamie Beiler earlier this week with the Florida Department of Health and CIGNA Healthcare against Dr. John R. Hartman and his physician’s assistant, Dawn Pope-Wright.

Ms Beiler visited Dr. Hartman’s office in March, 2005 for a routine medical check-up. When her appointment was finished, the complaint alleges Ms Pope-Wright gave Ms Beiler a packet of anti-gay propaganda referring to homosexuality as “sinful” and advising lesbians and gay men to change their sexual orientation.

Ms Beiler’s complaint alleges that Dr. Hartman and Ms Pope-Wright falsely presented their personal beliefs as medical information and provided her with unwanted treatment that has been rejected as ineffective by all major health and mental health organizations.

Ms Beiler is asking CIGNA, her healthcare provider, and the Florida Board of Medicine to take action against Ms Pope- Wright and Dr. Hartman for their unethical conduct.

“When I opened the sealed packet, I was shocked and outraged,” said Ms Beiler. “I was extremely offended and I felt like I had been violated. To this day I dread the thought of ever having to go to a doctor’s office again.”

Ms Beiker claimed that she first filed a formal complaint with Dr. Hartman’s office manager. She said she was then informed that the doctor routinely distributes the anti-gay materials to patients.

Attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation, widely known as “reparative therapy,” have been rejected by every major health and mental health organization in the United States, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

According to the American Psychiatric Association: “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour.” According to Kathleen DeBold, Executive Director of the Mautner Project, the National Lesbian Health Organization, Ms Beiler’s experience is an example of a homophobic healthcare system, one that jeopardizes the health of a medically under-served population.

“Although Ms. Beiler’s courage in telling her story is unique, what happened to her is not,” Ms DeBold said. “Incidents like this are far too common, and the climate of fear they generate causes many lesbians to avoid or delay getting the medical help they need – often with devastating consequences.”

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