Appendix 20 - Homophobia

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]


It took until 1993 for the American Medical Association to include the words "sexual orientation" in its non-discrimination statement, after having rejected the motion for four consecutive years.[266]

More Deserving

From a 1984 editorial in the Southern Medical Journal:

Might it be that our society's approval of homosexuality is an error and that the unsubtle words of wisdom of the Bible are frightfully correct?.... Perhaps, then, homosexuality is not 'alternative' behavior at all, but as the ancient wisdom of the Bible states, most certainly pathologic.... Health care providers, in this age of unbridled enthusiasm for preventive medicine, would do well to seek reversal treatment for their homosexual patients just as vigorously as they would for alcoholics or heavy cigarette smokers, for what may not be treated might well be prevented.[267]

Surveys of medical students are equally enlightening:

Medical students [at the University of Mississippi, 1987] read one of four patient vignettes. The vignettes were identical in content except that the patient was identified as having either AIDS or leukemia and as either homosexual or heterosexual.... Regardless of which disease was involved, the homosexual patients were viewed as... suffering less pain than the heterosexual patients.... When the patient was identified as homosexual, he was rated as being less 'appropriate,' more offensive, less truthful, less likable, and inferior to the heterosexual. The homosexual also tended to be considered less assertive, less attractive, and less intelligent than the heterosexual.

[Further,] students were much less willing to converse with an AIDS patient than a leukemia patient... [and] In all areas, the students were less willing to interact, even in the most casual manner, with an individual identified as homosexual. Some of the findings were quite alarming to the authors. They did not anticipate that medical students to such a great extent would believe AIDS patients were more deserving... to die [than leukemia patients], to lose their jobs, and to be quarantined....[268]

The students may just be following their preceptors lead. "In an anonymous survey of more than 300 residents and faculty at a Brooklyn hospital," reports the New York Times, "55 percent of respondents said they wouldn't 'perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a cardiac emergency without a protective bag-valve mask.' The number went up to more than 70 percent for a trauma victim suspected of being gay."[269] As reported in JAMA, "Today, a third of doctors and most orthopedic surgeons see no duty to care for HIV-infected persons."[270]

A survey published in 1986, studying 2000 San Diego County physicians found that, "Twenty-five percent were strongly homophobic, and 40% would discourage homosexual physicians from training in psychiatry or pediatrics." A Canadian study published 5 years later found a third of psychiatric and family practice residents surveyed scored as homophobic and 5% of the family practice residents thought, "Homosexuals with AIDS 'got what they deserved.'"[271]

A 1998 follow-up survey included over a thousand physicians: Four percent didn't think, "a highly qualified gay or lesbian applicant [should] be admitted to medical school." Ten percent thought, "a gay or lesbian physician [should] be discouraged from seeking residency training in [Ob/Gyn and pediatrics]." Over 20% of general practitioners would have discontinued referrals to surgeons they found out to be gay or lesbian.[272]


[266] O'Hanlan, KA, et al. "Homophobia is a Health Hazard." USA Today (Magazine) 125(1996):26.

[267] Fletcher, JL. "Homosexuality." Southern Medical Journal 77(1984):149-150.

[268] Kelley, JA, et al. Journal of Medical Education 621987):549-556)

[269] Durso, C. "Pride and Prejudice." New Physician 1998(December):44.

[270] Miles, SH. "What are We Teaching about Indigent Patients?" JAMA 268(1992):2561-2562.

[271] Chaimowitz, GA. Canadian Journal Psychiatry 36(1991):206-209.

[272] Ramos, MM, et al. "Attitudes of Physicians Practicing in New Mexico toward Gay Men and Lesbians in the Profession." Academic Medicine 73(1998):436-438.

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