Glad to be gay in IndiaBMJ 2018; 362 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3885 (Published 11 September 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3885
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To the Editor,
I thank D’Silva J for the article highlighting healthcare issues that LGBTQ people face, in light of the recent decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal code(1). As a medical student, I wish to share the potential implications of this legal change, a possibility in my own country, where heated discussion and debate regarding amendment or repeal of Section 377A has recently taken stride(2).
First, we must be aware of diseases or conditions that are disproportionately high amongst the LGBTQ community. These include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other sexually transmitted diseases, and mental health conditions. Having such epidemiological knowledge in the back of our minds may equip us to better deal with LGBTQ patients, as these conditions can raise certain red flags with regard to investigation, management, and treatment approaches.
Next, we must be taught the basics and skills of attending to LGBTQ issues, be it from a social, medical or communication point of view. As Sir William Osler said, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patients who has the disease.”. However, how are we able to understand the patient’s complete story if we have trouble or difficulty communicating with patients of differing sexual orientation?(3). Hence, it is important that we are taught how to handle and juggle our personal beliefs and religious conflicts, both of which may cause discomfort when treating LGBTQ patients. Discomfort does not only do you harm as the doctor, but to the patient as well. He or she may not feel comfortable disclosing their personal or medical information with you, or worst still, may even lose trust in you or the healthcare system.
Ultimately, we as medical students or healthcare professionals, must be guided by our code of ethics and professional attributes, not by personal or organizational principles. Aside from the ethical principle of beneficence, we should hold a non-discriminatory position, display sensitivity, empathy, and professionalism to our patients regardless of sexuality. In this regard, it is important for medical schools and institutions to provide the appropriate training and teaching to students, be it in the clinical setting or during ethics lessons.
1. D'Silva J. Glad to be gay in India. BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2018;362:k3885.
2. C N. Amending 377A: Unlike courts, Parliament will take into account views of public. The Straits Times. 2018.
3. Centor RM. To Be a Great Physician, You Must Understand the Whole Story. Medscape General Medicine. 2007;9(1):59-.
Competing interests: No competing interests