Medical Groups Should Canvass Members on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Ban

The NZMA and the Pediatric Society should canvass its members after more than a quarter of doctors in the UK said that they did not support the British Medical Association (BMA) lobbying to ban ‘conversion therapy’.

Both the NZMA and the Pediatric Society have said that they support the bill but there are medical professionals within those associations that completely disagree and say that there hasn’t been thorough consultation or that there has even been a vote on the issue.

Over a quarter (26%) of doctors do not support the British Medical Association (BMA) lobbying to ban conversion therapy (59% support, 15% neutral). 35% also opposed the Medical Council (GMC) introducing sanctions against medical practitioners, with 49% in favour.

Ironically, the British Medical Association at the same meeting also agreed to adopt a neutral position on euthanasia because of disagreement amongst its members.

An Australian family law and child protection expert Patrick Parkinson AM and has chaired Australia’s Family Law Council says that

[T]his is no time for the NZ Parliament to pass legislation that will be understood as seeking to scare therapists away from providing therapy to very troubled adolescents who identify as ‘trans’ or ‘gender diverse’. There is no evidence to support the claim that therapists who seek to assist children and young people to become more comfortable with their natal sex cause harm by so doing. Rather, the evidence is that with expert, cautious therapeutic support, some 75-85% of children with gender identity issues can be assisted to become comfortable with their natal sex.”

He warns that

The Bill creates a draconian offence, punishable by three years’ imprisonment, for engaging in a conversion practice in relation to a child under 18…. This will mean that some mental health professionals refuse to see young patients with sexual orientation or gender identity issues who have other serious mental health concerns. This could lead to an increase in the mental health burden on already very troubled young people, and may lead to increased suicide attempts.”

Medical professionals and groups are sounding growing international concern around the use of puberty blockers to treat young people with gender dysphoria because of the low certainty of benefits, but the significant potential for medical harm.

Sweden’s leading gender clinic – Stockholm’s Astrid Lindgren children’s hospital – has become the world’s first to end routine treatment of minors under the age of 18 with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Britain’s NHS recently withdrew a claim that the effects of puberty blockers are “fully reversible” – a claim made on TVNZ’s Sunday programme, but challenged by experts spoken to by Newshub.

The Australian reports on a new paper involving gender clinic staff from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, which says that “gender clinicians are under increasing pressure to enable ‘conveyor belt’ medicalisation of children who arrive already convinced that hormonal drugs are the only solution to their distress.” A leading expert clinical psychologist Thomas Steensma from the Dutch clinic which pioneered puberty blocker drugs for children distressed by unwanted sexual development has also sounded the alarm about gender clinics around the world “blindly adopting” the use of puberty blockers without further research.

Finland revised its treatment guidelines in June 2020, prioritising psychological interventions and support over medical interventions, particularly for youth with post-pubertal onset of gender dysphoria.

Both the NZMA and the Pediatric Society should re-engage with its members to determine their view on this proposed law – given the effect it will have on their profession and on their patients.

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