NMC: Practising conversion therapy is a professional misconduct

Published on Sep 05, 2022 09:08 PM IST

The letter dated August 25, sent by NMC’s ethics and medical registration board, stated that the Madras high court had directed the commission to issue necessary official notification by enlisting – conversion therapy as professional misconduct

NMC: Practising conversion therapy is a professional misconduct
NMC: Practising conversion therapy is a professional misconduct
BySomita Pal

Mumbai: The National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued notices to all state medical councils enlisting conversion therapy as professional misconduct under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002.

The letter dated August 25, sent by NMC’s ethics and medical registration board, stated that the Madras high court had directed the commission to issue necessary official notification by enlisting – conversion therapy as professional misconduct.

While speaking to HT, the medical fraternity and LGBTQIA+ community welcomed the decision as it will empower the medical councils to take action against medical professionals practising conversion therapy.

In February, HT reported a LGBTQIA+ doctor’s fight with the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) against its member Dr Deepak Kelkar who was promoting conversion therapy to treat homosexuality and said it is a disease.

Dr Prasad Dandekar, a well-known radiation oncologist, who also runs Health Professionals for Queer Indians (HPQI) an initiative working on sensitising healthcare professionals for the healthcare needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, said many have been forced to undergo conversion therapy, a non-scientific treatment. “It is not possible to convert a person’s sexual orientation from one way to the other. Despite the scientific evidence, several doctors have been practising conversion therapy,” he said.

Dr Dandekar said many modern medicine practising doctors continued with this unprofessional practice promising cures to homosexuality leading to severe mental health impacts on such people.

“Homosexuality has been considered taboo in our society for the longest time. Unfortunately, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been facing discrimination in society as well as in their families. A number of these young members have been forced to undergo conversion therapy. Many have also been given electric shocks leading to intense trauma,” he added.

On February 22, HT reported on how Dr Dandekar’s complaint forced the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) to ask its senior psychiatrist member from Akola- Dr Deepak Kelkar to pull down the YouTube videos he had uploaded claiming homosexuality is a disease and can be cured.

Dr Kelkar, who has 11 lakh followers on YouTube, had mentioned conversion therapy, psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, pharmacotherapy, physical therapy etc as a ‘cure for homosexuality’ in his videos.

While Dr Kelkar pulled down after the three-member committee of IPS asked him to, no action was taken against him though Dr Dandekar tried following up.

“They said he is a senior psychiatrist and they cannot take action. The NMC’s notice announcing it as misconduct is a great win for the LGBTQIA+ community as now doctors like Kelkar can be brought under the purview of the law and face serious consequences like being debarred from practice,” said Dr Dandekar. “NMC’s notice will end the unprofessional, unethical, unscientific, barbarian methods of conversion therapy.”

It was on September 6, 2018, that the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 which criminalised gay sex. IPS had played a key role then as it issued a statement saying homosexuality is not an illness.

Dr Avinash Desousa, past- president of Bombay Psychiatric Society and member of IPS said it is a wake-up call for all the medical professionals who think that homosexuality is a disorder.

“There are medical professionals who still might engage in such therapies and claim they can treat homosexuality. They do not want to change their own primitive beliefs. The NMC notice is a good wake-up call for these professionals and they have to accept homosexuality is not a disease. All physicians and psychiatrists have to go with the premise that this is a normal phenomenon and stop looking at it as a psychological problem,” he said.

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