Conversion therapy: Overwhelming majority of medical schools back long-overdue ban

Ban Conversion Therapy Picket Of Cabinet Office London

Three quarters of medical schools in the UK have signed a vital initiative calling for a conversion therapy ban.

The charter, created by The Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists (GLADD) and Lancaster University Medical School, has so far seen ‘all but nine of the UK’s 44 medical schools sign up”. 

It’s not known why those nine have not joined the initiative, but those involved believe it’s likely due to slow administrative processes, rather than outright refusals.

GLADD are delighted that this charter has received support from nearly 80% of all medical schools in the UK, and we are confident we can reach 100 per cent,” a spokesperson for GLADD tells PinkNews.

Academics involved in the charter tell PinkNews they have been the victims of harassment, death-threats and have needed to take action to ensure their safety.

Dr Jospeh Hartland, the document’s lead author, took to Twitter to share the achievement, highlighting that one university in Northern Ireland and eight in England are yet to support the campaign.

The charter is calling for all UK medical schools to condemn the use of and support the banning of “so-called LGBTQ+ conversion therapy”. It calls on the General Medical Council to recognise the harm of the therapy and hopes to promote a sense of inclusion within medical schools.

Its creation is based on the work of the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to protect the public through a commitment to ending conversion therapy in the UK.

“The charter is an extension of the core principles outlined in the ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK’, and calls for medical schools to support the banning of so-called ‘conversion therapy’,” says GLADD.

“We hope the charter empowers students and staff to question absent, inadequate or harmful teaching on LGBTQ+ health.

“By committing to sign, medical schools demonstrate to LGBTQ+ students, staff and patients that they are valued. All of us should be able to study, work and live free of discrimination.”

Death threats

Queer activist, Jo Hartland, who has worked on the charter tells PinkNews although they’re proud of the work they’ve done, as an “openly queer clinic academic – it’s been exhausting”.

They said the team working on this initiative have “all been harassed”.

“Personally, online I’ve had death threats, been put on a list of LGBTQ+ people who ‘should be euthanised’, and told I am a risk to women and children.

“I’ve even had to remove my contact details from my employers website so I can feel safe leaving the office.”

Hartland says there is a prevalence of “gender critical discourse” in academia, and a culture of “queerphobia” that still exists in medicine which has made them feel “very vulnerable”.

They say the “charter was always intended to empower staff and students”.

‘Overwhelming evidence’ conversion therapy causes significant harm

The charter states that “so-called conversion therapy” should be banned due to “overwhelming evidence” it causes significant mental harm to LGBTQ+ people.

It also referenced a government report into the therapy which showed there was no evidence of its effectiveness.

By signing the charter, medical schools are being urged to “seek and produce graduates who can ensure that individuals with uncertainty or distress around their sexual orientation or gender identity access appropriate healthcare and social support”.

A GLADD spokesperson tells PinkNews: “Medical education should be evidence based, and the evidence is overwhelmingly that these practices only cause harm and have no place in modern healthcare.”

This initiative comes as the new minister for women and equalities Kemi Badenoch has reportedly paused work on a conversion therapy ban. It follows former prime minister Liz Truss failing to “deliver on her word” of banning the “abhorrent” practice during her short-lived time in office. 

In July this year, NHS England announced the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will shut down its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) by next spring.

Parents of trans children who attended the clinics have welcomed its closure and described Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service as an “absolutely broken institution” which is “not salvageable”.