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Doctors must confront homophobia because it causes harm

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 22 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7012
  1. Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities, BMA, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. vnathanson{at}

All doctors have a duty to speak out against homophobia because such discrimination can lead to psychological and physical trauma, writes Vivienne Nathanson, after the World Medical Association (WMA) recently stated that homosexuality is not a disease

Intolerance of homosexuality and concurrent victimisation of homosexual people seem to be rising in parts of the world. Some countries including Uganda are introducing laws that criminalise homosexual activity. Others are tolerating bigotry and discriminatory behaviour with, in some cases, police tolerating or even aiding attacks on homosexual people. Recent press reports have shown just how widespread such actions are, with the attitudes of the authorities in Russia causing particular concern at the moment. All this is deeply worrying.

Discrimination is a medical issue. Its effects are harmful to people, usually psychologically but often associated with very real physical risks. As doctors we see these harms: the results of physical attacks and the effects of anxiety linked to social stigma, which can lead to suicide attempts. When such discrimination is so clearly unfair, and when fallacious medical arguments are made in attempts to legitimise it, …

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