American Medical News
Posted April 8, 2013
Physicians are well aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients face particular obstacles in the health care system, and fully meeting the clinical needs of this population can be challenging for medicine. Like other minorities in the U.S., LGBT patients can be affected negatively by disparities in care that stem from social stigma and a lack of understanding about unique health needs.
American Medical News has reported on the role of organized medicine, educators and others in making sure that all patients — regardless of sexual orientation — have their medical needs met in a way that is professional, compassionate and thorough. That commitment starts with the training of future physicians and continues when doctors speak out against the harm LGBT patients endure when encountering distrust and discrimination.
The social issues involved in the gay marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court received significant attention, but some physician organizations made it clear that there are medical ramifications as well. The groups said denying civil marriage rights to same-sex couples creates harmful stress for patients and deprives children of the positive health benefits that come when parents are allowed to marry regardless of gender.
Some physicians said they have seen firsthand the psychiatric harm gay patients have had from undergoing conversion therapy in an attempt to turn them straight. In some instances, other physicians have been involved in providing the therapy, rooted in the roundly dismissed belief that sexual orientation is a mental illness that can be repaired. In some of these cases, courts will decide whether the therapy should be allowed.
LGBT individuals make up an estimated 3.4% of the U.S. population, but many medical students receive only a few hours of training on the particular health needs of the patients in this demographic — if they receive any training at all. Now more medical schools are trying to change that by offering comprehensive courses on LGBT health issues or mandating that this education be incorporated into the basic curriculum.