The British Medical Association (BMA) has condemned forms of therapy designed to 'heal' gay and bisexual people of their attraction to members of their own sex. The statement was passed by the BMA's annual meeting by more than a two-thirds majority.
The journalist and activist Patrick Strudwick, who founded a campaign against 'conversion therapy' described the BMA's decision as a “watershed moment”.
The BMA motion also stated that National Health Service (NHS) funds should never be used to provide such therapy.
“Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is, that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide,” said Tim Dolphin, a junior doctor who proposed the motion, “You can't just wish away same-sex attraction no matter how inconvenient it might be”.
Recent years have seen a sharp rise in active support for conversion therapy amongst socially conservative Christian groups in the UK. They have drawn on practices used in the US, where such therapy is far more common. Two major conferences have been held in London in the last two years by groups supportive of the practice, including Anglican Mainstream and Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON).
But many Christian groups have condemned anti-gay therapy and the Church of England has distanced itself from it. An undercover investigation by Strudwick, published in the Independent earlier this year, led to a co-ordinated campaign against the practice, as well as to formal complaints against therapists.
“Not only are psychiatrists and psychotherapists still peddling these abhorrent techniques," said Strudwick, "In some cases the NHS are paying for it. Hopefully, anyone involved in the so-called treatment of homosexuality will realise that the medical profession considers them dangerous charlatans, and will reconsider their beliefs."
In response, Andrea Minichiello Williams of CCFON said that individuals should be able to receive “the help that they need in this area”. She added that, “Those offering counselling for homosexual orientation have been increasingly targeted by the homosexual lobby”.