Transgender symbol
Transgender symbol

Doctors fear jail over under proposed new laws

DOCTORS fear they will face jail if they continue counselling children who want to change gender under Queensland's proposed new laws outlawing conversion therapies.

The National Association of Practising Psychiatrists (NAPP) is concerned that vital psychotherapy that probes the reasons for a patient wanting to transition will be impacted by the law, which bans practices that work to suppress gender identity.

Under section 5B of the Health and Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, doctors who carry out such practices would face up to 18 months in jail - leading to fears conventional counselling will be shunned to avoid potential legal consequences.

As public submissions on the bill closed yesterday, NAPP President Dr Philip Morris told The Courier-Mail that "conventional and ethical actions of the physician must never be regarded as conversion practices under Queensland law".

 

National Association of Practising Psychiatrists president Dr Philip Morris.
National Association of Practising Psychiatrists president Dr Philip Morris.

 

"The assessment of gender dysphoria means exploring and understanding the reasons why an individual has come to the belief that their gender is different to the gender assigned at birth," Dr Morris said.

"Medical and psychiatric disorders identified in this process will need appropriate treatment (with consent) in order to enhance the wellbeing of the patient."

The NAPP chief says he is concerned that the fear of legal action will make doctors steer clear of this area of medicine, causing a decline in professional help patients need.

The association wants to see very clearly defined regulations as to what constitutes conversion therapy.

"The reality is that the majority of children who say they want to change their gender change their minds after puberty," he said.

"It is a big decision and should be carefully investigated before the move towards puberty-blocking drugs, sex hormones and surgery before the age of 18 years."

Conversion therapy is a treatment that attempts to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Examples include conditioning techniques such as aversion therapy, psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy that aim to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

But the NAPP says that psychotherapy is included in the Queensland Government's definitions of conversion therapy.

"There are different types of psychotherapy and these include supportive, cognitive behaviour therapy, psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, and brief psychotherapy. Psychotherapy as practised by psychiatrists as a treatment modality is not conversion therapy," the association states in a submission to the government.

 

Health Minister Steven Miles says practices that try to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation are immoral. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Health Minister Steven Miles says practices that try to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation are immoral. Picture: Steve Pohlner

 

Sunshine Coast's Meaghan Hayes is mum to Emma who is 15. Emma was born as Ronan but now is thriving living as a girl.

"Emma is doing so well and never doubted her decision but I believe that the professional support of a counsellor is vital for children," she said.

"As a parent I was lost and didn't know how to deal with things. I think it is reasonable for doctors to investigate whether the child is committed to the decision or to question their reasons. Taking blockers and hormones is not something a parent wants a child to do easily."

The Opposition has called on the Labor government to take time to talk with the medical professionals.

"Annastacia Palaszczuk is trying to rush through laws that may impact clinical care for some of Queensland's most vulnerable children. Labor needs to support medical professionals and not jeopardise patient care with ideologically-driven, rushed laws," Deputy LNP Leader Tim Mander said.

A Queensland Health spokesman said the department was committed to fighting for equality for all LGBTIQ+ people and the "legislation will not prevent a psychiatrist or health service provider providing safe, evidence-based and clinically appropriate care to people with gender dysphoria, including children".

The Bill is being examined by the Parliamentary Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee. Its report is expected on February 21.


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