The American Medical Association (AMA) has recently adopted a new policy regarding conversion therapy, the controversial practice of attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. In a statement announcing its new policy to advocate for state and federal legislation banning the practice, the AMA declared that conversion therapy "needs to end."
"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, M.D. said in a statement released Tuesday by the association. "Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety."
After hearing first-hand accounts and testimony regarding the emotional and mental harm conversion therapy can cause, the AMA's House of Delegates adopted a policy to advocate for a federal ban on conversion therapy and develop model legislation banning the practice at the state level. In announcing the policy on Tuesday, the AMA said its plans to support legislative bans on conversion therapy were meant to strengthen the physician association's long-standing opposition to conversion therapy. The association went on to label conversion therapy an "unscientific practice."
According to the AMA, more needs to be done to effectively outlaw the practice of conversion therapy across the country. While 18 states and Washington, D.C. have implemented laws barring conversion therapy from being carried out on people younger than 18, no state has banned the practice from being used on adults. "The AMA agrees with medical experts that the lack of regulation on conversion therapy opens the door to fraud, harm and trauma for many adults and children in the U.S.," a statement from the association read.
On Tuesday, the AMA also announced a new policy aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of health issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. "With research showing significant disparities among patients facing health issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, it is important that our future physicians have the training they need to recognize these health issues and better treat their patients," AMA Board Member Grayson W. Armstrong, M.D., M.P.H. said in a statement. Under the new policy, the AMA will encourage all accredited medical education bodies to both periodically reassess and regularly encourage study in health issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The AMA has previously spoken out against conversion therapy, noting that it "often includes unethical techniques" which "may increase suicidal behaviors and cause significant psychological distress, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, internalized homophobia, self-blame, intrusive imagery and sexual dysfunction." Additionally, the association has said that the assumptions used to justify use of the practice — namely, that sexual orientation and gender identity can somehow be wrong and corrected — are "not based on medical or scientific evidence."
The AMA is not the only U.S. medical association to oppose conversion therapy. According to GLAAD, the list of other organizations that have also condemned conversion therapy include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.