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American Medical Assoc.: Ban Conversion Therapy for Adults and Kids

Doctor and patient

The AMA recently changed its policies on transgender and minority health, as well as so-called conversion therapy.

The American Medical Association adopted several LGBTQ-supportive policies at a meeting Tuesday, endorsing bans on conversion therapy and backing inclusion of more information on transgender patients in electronic health records, and also pledged to address racial pay gaps in medicine.

The AMA has spoken out on these issues before, but the policies OK'd at a San Diego meeting of the House of Delegates strengthen its position, according to an AMA press release.

The physicians' group has long opposed the use of conversion therapy, designed to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, but now it will support both federal and state bans on the practice, for both children and adults, and will develop model legislation for this purpose. Eighteen states and numerous cities and counties prohibit licensed therapists from subjecting minors to conversion therapy, but no jurisdiction in the U.S. bans its use on adults.

"The AMA heard testimony, including first-hand accounts, regarding the significant harms triggered by conversion therapy, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts and attempts," the release states.

"It is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people," AMA board member William E. Kobler, MD, said in the release. "Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety."

The group bolstered its inclusive policy on electronic health records, supporting "the voluntary inclusion of a transgender patient's preferred name and clinically relevant sex specific anatomy in medical documentation," according to the release. It had already promoted the use of inclusive sex, gender, and sexual orientation options in the records. The new policy is in line with recommendations from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

The AMA further OK'd a policy urging accreditation bodies to continue to encourage medical schools to include information about sexual orientation and gender identity in their curricula and to evaluate the curricula periodically.

It also called for further study of the racial pay gap in medicine, noting that physicians of color make significantly less than their white peers. "The AMA will work with appropriate stakeholders to study effective and appropriate measures to increase the transparency and accountability of physician earnings through established transparency measures, in which physicians can access information including but not limited to the salaries, race and ethnicity of physicians," the release states.

"These new policies from the American Medical Association reaffirm the urgent need to protect LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice," Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement, regarding the conversion therapy policy. "This policy will also be a critical resource for state legislators across the country as they work toward crafting legislation combating 'conversion therapy.' No child should have to endure this painful and life-threatening practice, and we are glad to see the AMA taking seriously the need to protect LGBTQ youth.

"Additionally, inclusive health records that respect the identities of all patients is central to building a health care system that can serve everyone. Improving electronic health records for transgender patients will dramatically enhance the ability of providers to uphold the privacy and dignity of their patients. The voices of medical professionals have long been central to the growing support for LGBTQ-inclusive laws, policies and communities -- these AMA policies continue that trend."

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