Aside

Doctors in the Dark

Hey there Guys,

Today I thought it was important to declare a few things…

Firstly I am an openly gay man. What you see above is what you get.

Secondly I am a doctor, a very proud doctor and I 100% believe and live by the Declaration of Geneva, in particular:

“I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;

I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat”

 

Today I am ashamed to be in the same medical profession as more then 150 “doctors” in Australia who have signed a submission that homosexual marriage reform will lead to decreased health outcomes for children. I am disgusted that 23 of these signatories are fellow GPs here in the state of Victoria and another who happens to be the deputy chief psychiatrist, also Victorian.

To bring you up to speed, I’d like to highlight an article from this weekend’s paper about the group “Doctors For The Family“, a group of Christian doctors who have openly declared their belief that homosexual law reform, in particular the removal of the current marriage discrimination, would be detrimental to the lives of children.

As noted in today’s Herald Sun

Professor Kuruvilla George, who is Victoria’s deputy chief psychiatrist, has signed a submission to a senate inquiry calling for a ban on same-sex marriage.

He is among a group of doctors, who in a letter to the marriage equality inquiry, say limiting marriage between a man and woman “is important for the future health of our nation”.

“We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without,” the Doctors for the Family group says…

…Lead author of the submission, GP Lachlan Dunjey said declaring their views publicly would not affect how they treated patients.

“We accept patients of all persuasions and behaviours,” Dr Dunjey said.

But former national AMA president and gay rights activist Kerryn Phelps said the doctors should “hang their heads in shame” and that Prof George’s position on the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission should be reviewed.

“They should immediately disqualify themselves from dealing with matters of sexuality, as they clearly have no idea about its complexities.”

 

As persuasive their arguments would appear, sadly the data they cite as the backbone of their platform is cherry picked, flawed and out of date.  As noted by Melbourne researcher, Associate Professor Paula Gerber the current research shows the exact opposite.

“Psychologists Susanne Johnson and Elizabeth O’Conner found that gay and lesbian parents tend to be more responsive to their children, more child oriented, and more egalitarian in their sharing of the workload, characteristics associated with a more positive child outcome.”

“…the highly regarded National Lesbian Longitudinal Family Study has found that “adolescents living with lesbian parents function as well as, or sometimes better than, those reared by opposite-sex parents”.”

“The American Psychological Association has come out in support of same-sex marriage because it has read the empirical research that demonstrates the clear health benefits that flow from allowing same sex couples to marry, including Herdt, G. & Kertzner, R. (2006).”

 

Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton has distanced himself and the AMA from “Doctors For The Family”. Quoted by the ABC:

“There is a growing body of evidence that says there’s no difference in their psychological development, their general health, their sexual orientation,” he said.

Dr Hambleton says the opinions expressed in the submission do not reflect the views of the wider medical community, saying there are nearly 90,000 doctors in Australia.

He says doctors must be mindful of putting their opinions forward because they hold influential positions in society.

“That’s part of the reason why it’s a bit disturbing that these opinions have been proffered. It’s certainly not the opinion of the AMA body of doctors,” he said.

 

So we are left with a small yet loud group of Australian doctors noted to be using out of date evidence to pursue personal and religious agendas. As noted above, their chosen spokesperson GP Lachlan Dunjey said declaring their views publicly would not affect how they treated patients.

This brings up two questions.

  1. Can they honestly say they will be able to treat their gay and lesbian patients with the same respect and care as their heterosexual patients?
  2. If indeed these viewpoints are not going to influence their medical decisions and judgement why did they choose to band as a group of doctors to push their agenda?

As a proud gay doctor I highly recommend you scrutinize the process you go through when it comes to choosing a doctor. Will your chosen doctor be able to offer you the best, non biased care despite your sexuality? Will your doctor be up to date with gay and lesbian health issues? Will your doctor be truly representing your care and needs beyond the time spent in the consult rooms?

In case you are wondering if your doctor is one of this minority group, I highly suggest reviewing the Doctors For The Family submission where the names of all who signed is a matter of public record. You can down load a copy of the submission here at the Australian Senate Website.

If indeed your doctor is on this list please feel free to ask them if they are able to respresent and care for all your needs. Biological, psychological and social. If the answer is “no”, “well perhaps” or anything other than an enthusiastic yes, then it’s time to find another doctor.

Every day I will continue to do my part for gay and lesbian health.

Every day I am living by the tenet ”at first do no harm”. I wonder if the doctors in the submission above can say the same.

Yours in good health.

Dr George Forgan-Smith

,

If anyone reading this has discovered their doctor on the list of Doctors for Family, please don’t just abandon the practice. It’s ultimately not productive because the homophobic doctor won’t know why. I suggest the following:

1. Write to the practice manager to express your feelings about the doctor concerned and to advise of your intention not to continue with that doctor
2. Ask if there are other doctors in the practice who are known to be supportive of same-sex marriage
3. See the supportive doctor in future, or if there isn’t one, ask the practice to forward your records elsewhere
4. If you feel your doctor has behaved in a manner that’s unprofessional or indeed detrimental to your health, notify the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency

I’m a doctor, and one of the other doctors in my practice is one of the “Doctors for Family” who signed that document. I’m vehemently opposed to her views and in fact my same sex partner of 19 years and I plan to get married as soon as it’s legal. I’d be upset if anyone left our practice because of the homophobic views of my colleague – so make sure you talk to the practice before making any decisions. Be polite and respectful, too – they’ll take you a lot more seriously.

Excellent points Chris. It’s vital the doctors fully understand why their clients make the decision to move away.

Let’s start a new group. Doctors for All the Family. Let’s talk about how support for marriage will improve the health and wellbeing of our gay and lesbian people and reduce mental health problems and the dreadful rates of suicide among people who have been marginalised and discriminated against for way too long. Let’s make it a call for kindness.

Mary says:

Well George I looked at that list. One of the doctors listed was in my medical class.
He is very young for his age (despite having gone through a postgraduate MBBS) and IMHO comes from a culture which blindly follows a particular shade of Christianity without questioning its flaws.

Why I found it surprising was that another member of our PBL (tutorial group of 10) is a very admirable out and proud gay man. I would have hoped that such close professional contact would have demonstrated to this signatory many reasons why it is naive to hold views that would lead someone to sign such a submission.

This senate submission is a sad reminder of how doctors’ religious beliefs and their homophobia can have a negative impact on their patients.

Claire-Mary Thomsett says:

Very well said George! Good on ya mate.

brett says:

Congratulations on your stance and your wonderful article . I am aware of the controversy surrounding this subject at the moment and find the subject of ‘ gay marriage and parenting to be two different subjects though given the opportunity , they could be linked. As a gay male , I am often asked what my opinion is on the subject of gay marriage . My answer is probably quite different to a lot of gay people because I am more concerned about the legal stance that such a relationship would give each person. This is something that even straight couples can be denied when they are living in a de facto relationship so I see it as being equally important to them . Not being a legal professional , I can’t state all the laws that we are denied by being in a de facto relationship but there are a few that I know about from personal experience . Such as , when you are married you have all the rights to superannuation / death payouts . As a husband or wife , this right is afforded to you without question however if you are in a de facto relationship you will need to jump through more hoops especially in the absence of a will. The right to decide where and when and how a funeral is conducted is the absolute right of a husband or wife. I’m sure there are many more so what I am saying is that ‘ marriage’ is a legal contract so perhaps we should be persueiing our right to have the ability to form the same legal contract even if it is not called a marriage or union.
As far as parenting goes , that is another subject that is possibly no different to the argument that still persists over single parenting. Personally I don’t see a problem with children being raised in an atmosphere of love health and respect regardless of who is creating this

Pete says:

Even if gay marriages were legislated, I would still not be able to walk down the street and hold my lover’s hand without being stared at, spat at, verbally abused, and at risk of physical violence…… This society depresses me so deeply somedays that I can not leave my home. I am for all intensive purposes socially isolated and do not mix in society at all unless I have to because sooner or later my sexual orientation becomes an issue, something to be slagged off at or threatened with violence over. Its always been like that………..I have been punched, spat on, even sacked over being gay. ………. I know why gay people often kill themselves……..To me, all this so-called debate about gay marriage is just another smoke screen and way to divide and rule over people. And yet I still look forward to and dream of a society without discrimination and homophobia, but not in this lifetime at least……… But thank you George good doctor thank you…………..

Mark says:

Wow. What a surprise. Most of the doctors are from Queensland.
The 150 names in that PDF make it quite easy to cut and paste in to google if you’re looking for their contact details. Just sayin’. ;)

Jaimie Duncan says:

There seems to be something off about this group using their medical credentials as ammunition. Saying “I’m a doctor and I know what I’m talking about” when what you really mean is “I’m part of the Christian right and this is what I believe” is putting a dangerous spin on your argument when you know full well that you live in a culture where people are trained from birth to trust the medical profession in all things. It’s cleverly taking advantage of this fact and its poisonous. Kerryn Phelps is right to be calling them on it but I feel that her approach is not going to win anyone over to her view.
With regard to the moot point of parenting, again, this argument is relying on convention rather than reality. Claiming that only a straight couple, a male and a female working together, can raise a child successfully excludes single parents altogether. It also assumes that the biological fact of reproduction is something sacred. My argument is that since gay couples have to go to more effort than most straight couples to have a child surely that indicates a higher level of commitment to the overall process? You’ll never find an accidental or unwanted pregnancy with a gay couple.
We need a licence to get a dog but … well, you’ve heard it before I’m sure.

Dr Steve Kane-ToddHall says:

Thank you, George. Absolutely spot on. The choice of ‘evidence’ is indeed risable. The real evidence all around me is of gay parents being fantastic parents. Understanding. Open. Accepting. I can see that. Where Christian ideology creeps in… I see people marginalised, labeled, for down… And so many gay young adults rejected and psychologically scarred by their parents who believe in something that lacks all decent evidence for it. Christianity. But it’s not just Christians of course who spout this type of perjorative nonsense. It’s other dyed in the wool Aussies who really should know better, too, who in this land of multiculturalism and acceptance for whatever reason have a problem with the concept of men and women being gay. Often it seems at best to be a ‘macho’ thing. A threat to the status quo. All I’m saying is that the mess that I see so many young people in- whose parents are a man and a woman- its soul destroying. Yet I don’t see this with the gay parents and their. Holden that I know. Old-fashioned heterosexual society is doing and has done so much damage- why aren’t these drs doing something useful about that? Maybe it’s time I moved down to Victoria and tried to help with the balance a bit? Steve

Scott Gensemer says:

Groups such as these are on the wrong side of history; they’re not helpful to be sure and they may still be able to garner enough support with their erroneous claims to slow the march to true equality down; but, it is impossible in the long run to maintain the proposition that you stand for “Equality for Some”. As a 90 year old elder-statesmen of the Civil Rights Movement (an African-American) here in the States said the other day in regards to this very issue “equality for some is an oxymoron”.

George, Thank you for all you do and fight on.

Bill Howard says:

As a 50ish hetro male, I think the actions of these archaic thinking professionals is out of touch and puerile. Good luck with your crusade Dr George.

Ji wallace says:

Stop going to these doctors. Plain and simple. Religion disgusts me especially when used as a pure discrimination tool.

Mary says:

actually I think that large numbers of gay, lesbian and single parents (if they are brave enough) could consult them and and passively force these doctors to face their fears

Plenty of home based bigots as well Mark.

Mark says:

Looking at the list of international names makes me wonder how many of them bring their own prejucis and countries doctrines and beliefs.

Daniel Sinnott says:

Hmmm, interesting that Mark uses borderline racism to try and explain homophobia in a group of people.

FWIW Mark – if you look around, a persons name has little to do with their immediate origin, beliefs or prejudices.

Trevor says:

I have often said anyone who says “research shows” in the media should have given a list of references that can be sighted as part of the program. But the media does not want this because conflict sells papers. The 150 have violated our human and civil rights and the way forward to be counter it is with trusted media and the masses sharing their lives with people of the rainbow and their families. As a dad of 3 we had to deal with people’s judgement of us. We were also approached by 60 mins to do a segment on the birth of our twins 3 years ago. We thought hard and knew we had to let middle Australia knows that gay and kids are a fabulous mix. We were scared what the out come would be. But it was fantastic. …except some of the traditional catholic blogs who sighted us as pederists and other nice things LOL But what’s good is anyone who is undecided about gays and children but has a fair mind and an open heart will come to the conclusion that it’s a good thing when they are given a choice of the nice gays with kids or this nasty hateful group. We are hopeful for the future and have made a big effort to help researchers across the world with their studies because we know in years to come we can quote and know its good research. On top of this there have now been 1,000 come home from India of which half are to gay dads. …now that’s a lot of good will ambassadors to break down prejudice.

Gus says:

They are much like National Organization for Marriage, here in the States; just a bunch of loons and quackers with too much media exposition, bullshit free expression with those organizations, they should be thrown in jail for a biased, hateful speech.