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British Medical Association demands government ban ‘harmful and unethical’ conversion therapy immediately

Lily Wakefield July 20, 2020
British Medical Association conversion therapy

Dr Tom Dolphin, an elected member of the BMA council (right), and Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA medical ethics committee (left). (British Medical Association)

Two senior doctors representing the British Medical Association (BMA) have demanded that the UK government immediately bans the “harmful and unethical” practice of so-called conversion therapy.

While conversion therapy is completely outlawed in five countries – Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan – and 20 US states, the horrific practice is still legal in the UK, despite the Tories having pledged to introduce legislation two years ago.

Following an open letter from MPs and activists including Elton John and Munroe Bergdorf demanding the government to introduce an immediate ban, two of Britain’s most senior doctors have joined calls for legislation.

Dr Tom Dolphin, an elected member of the BMA council, and Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA medical ethics committee, have spoken out on behalf of the trade union, which represents all doctors and medical students in the UK.

“Conversion therapy is a violation of human rights and of medical ethics, and there is no clinical evidence to support it,” they said in a statement seen by PinkNews.

“As doctors, we know at first hand that this so-called therapy does not work, and can cause depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

“LGBT+ people are twice as likely to commit suicide as non-LGBT+ people, and conversion therapy only increases this risk.”

Conversion therapy is a violation of human rights and of medical ethics.

The doctors said that methods used in the horrific practice around the world include “electric shock therapy, drugs, hormone administration and surgery”, and added: “While the use of such extreme methods has declined, we are aware that other types of counselling are sometimes offered to persuade a person to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“In 2010, the BMA called for this treatment to be stamped out. Codes of practice for mental health professionals should be updated to rule out any attempts to alter sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We have also called on the Department of Health and Social Care to investigate cases where conversion therapy has been funded with NHS money and to ensure this is called out and stopped.”

Theresa May promised conversion therapy ban in 2018.

The British Medical Association officials noted that while then-prime minister Theresa May promised to outlaw “abhorrent” conversion therapy in 2018,  no legislation has since been introduced.

“We urgently need effective legislation to make conversion therapy illegal,” they continued.

“The UK has often been a leader in supporting LGBT+ rights; it should show that leadership again now.”

Attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

A UK survey conducted last year found that one in five people who had been through conversion therapy later attempted suicide.

The doctors added that medics must become more aware of conversion therapy so that they can treat the trauma it causes.

“It’s important for doctors, as a profession, to be more aware of this issue as part of their training and ongoing professional development, because many victims of conversion therapy keep silent about it,” they wrote.

“Our medical schools and training programmes need to better prepare future doctors to care for LGBT+ people, including identifying and treating the trauma caused by conversion therapy. Put simply, these harmful and ineffective practices need to end.

“The medical profession needs to work together with others to ensure that all our patients, whom we are there to serve, are given appropriate, tailor-made care whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

 

More: BMA, british medical association, conversion therapy, equalities minister, liz truss

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