Gay doctors struck off because of their sexuality get official apology

Doctor sitting at desk and his files

The UK’s medical regulator has issued a formal apology to gay male doctors who were struck off because of their sexuality.

The General Medical Council (GMC) extended a formal apology to doctors and other healthcare workers it investigated, issued warnings to, or banned from practising because of convictions under historical UK laws against homosexuality.

After an internal investigation, it was found that the GMC, the independent regulator of doctors working in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, initiated “fitness to practice” proceedings against at least 40 doctors between 1899 and 1994 because of their sexuality, with at least eight struck off the medical register and unable to practice medicine again.

According to The Guardian, the last confirmed incident of a doctor being struck off for this reason was in 1966, but others were still being investigated or issued with warnings decades later. The formal apology, published on Thursday (22 February), expressed the regulator’s regret for the harm caused. 

The GMC’s chairwoman, professor Carrie MacEwen, said: “Homophobic laws and attitudes, that were in place into the 1980s and beyond, caused personal and professional harm.

“We compounded that harm when we also took additional regulatory action against those who were on the medical register. In some cases that meant the end of a practitioner’s career. For this, we are truly sorry.”

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MacEwen added that the GMC could not be sure of the exact number of doctors who were reprimanded or struck off because of their sexuality while homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, but that cases could have gone on until the 1990s.

The apology comes as the UK attempts to atone for past anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, with Turing’s Law passed in 2017 to grant posthumous pardons to people convicted for offences that are no longer on the statute books. 

In 2022, it was announced that all gay and bisexual men previously convicted under the UK’s historical anti-gay laws could have their charges pardoned in an expanded scheme. 

Priti Patel, who was home secretary at the time, said: “I hope that expanding the pardons and disregards scheme will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT+ community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home.”

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