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Advocacy groups denounce ‘Dr. Oz’ for debating merits of reparative therapy

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
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NEW YORK — Three of the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organizations on Wednesday denounced the syndicated “Dr. Oz” television show for airing an episode debating the merits of so-called reparative therapy, and for positioning a representative of the discredited National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) as an “expert.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamamtion (GLAAD), the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said they are calling on Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the “Dr. Oz Show” to stand with the entire medical community against reparative therapy, and to tell his LGBT viewers that he does not support the idea that their sexual orientation should be “repaired.”

According to the groups, the producers of the Dr. Oz Show framed their program on reparative therapy in a way that “provided a lengthy platform for junk science.”

The first two segments of the show featured two proponents of reparative therapy, neither of whom were challenged by Dr. Oz nor his guests. The two “ex-gay” activists were invited to stay and rebut statements by opponents throughout the program.

NARTH representative Julie Hamilton was introduced by Dr. Oz as an “expert” and spoke to countless parents and youth in the audience which angered the advocacy groups who maintained that it made it appear “as if NARTH’s work and practices represent legitimate and acceptable medical practices.”

The advocacy groups also noted that the producers had held conversations with representatives from GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG National leading up to the episode, but allegedly failed to disclose that a representative of NARTH would be featured.

The joint statement by GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG also pointed out that, while the show featured guests who condemned the idea and practice of “reparative therapy,” Dr. Oz himself never weighed in, and according to the groups, “the audience was misled to believe that there are actual experts on both sides of this issue.”

But in a statement posted to his blog earlier Wednesday, Oz indicated he has sided “with the established medical consensus,” which has rejected the practice of sexual orientation change efforts.

I felt that we needed to include all parties who have considered reparative therapy to hear the stories of people who have tried these treatments. Although some viewers may disagree with this tactic, if we want to reach everyone who might benefit from understanding the risks of this therapy, you have to present multiple perspectives.

[...]

After listening to both sides of the issue and after reviewing the available medical data, I agree with the established medical consensus. I have not found enough published data supporting positive results with gay reparative therapy and I have concerns about the potentially dangerous effects when the therapy fails, especially when minors are forced into treatments.

NARTH, a splinter group of anti-gay therapists/activists, was formed in 1992 — according to its founders — to “fully understand the homosexual condition and the factors which drive this self-destructive behavior,” and claims it supports clients who seek to “diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential” through therapy.

This idea, which is NARTH’s main focus, has been dismissed by every mainstream health and welfare organization in the country, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers.

“This issue is not one that can be discussed as though both sides are equally valid,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.

“The idea of therapists attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation has been proven ineffective and dangerous, and has been soundly and conclusively rejected by the entire medical establishment. This line of thinking is outdated, ultimately harmful, and in modern media, should be treated like lobotomies or medical mercury.”

The American Medical Association has previously stated that it opposes “any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”

“By presenting former NARTH President Julie Hamilton as an ‘expert’ on this topic, Dr. Oz chose to ignore what the actual experts say, and wrongfully presented this topic to his audience as an ongoing debate, rather than as the settled matter that it is within his own medical community,” the groups said, in a statement. “As someone who is trusted to deliver sound medical advice by his own patients and an audience of millions, his failure to do so on this topic is troubling. We ask that Dr. Oz stand with his colleagues and peers who oppose ‘reparative therapy.’”

NARTH co-founder Charles Socarides once called gay people “a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.”

“What LGBT youth need is the love, support, and acceptance of their parents, families, and friends, not to be told to change who they are,” added PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby.

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