Doctors Warn of Conversion Therapy’s Harms and Call for a Ban in New Report

The debunked practice can lead to depression, PTSD, and suicide and should be banned throughout the U.S., the report argues.

A new report confirms what medical groups have been saying for years: Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that can cause serious mental health issues in those who are subjected to it, and it should be banned.

So-called "conversion therapy" claims to be able to change a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity through a variety of practices, including aversion therapy, electroshock, drugs, hormone administration, and surgery. While the report noted use of more extreme tactics has declined, it also stated less aggressive methods can also harm children and adults.

The authors of the study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted being subjected to the process can "trigger" episodes of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

"As a result of the lack of regulation on these 'therapies,' many adults and children continue to be defrauded, harmed and traumatized in the U.S. every day," said report lead author Dr. Carl Streed, Jr., a primary care physician at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"In addition to the health problems associated with conversion therapies, these practices also carry serious economic burdens for LGBTQ people and the country at large, including low educational achievement, lower income and lower work performance."

The report's authors, which, in addition to Streed, include J. Seth Anderson, M.A., Chris Babits, Ph.D., and Michael A. Ferguson, Ph.D., said there was a need for doctors to become more familiar with the practices and impacts of conversion therapy, especially as many who have suffered through it, or are currently undergoing it, remain silent.

"Put simply, these practices need to end," Streed said. "We need to work across sectors to focus on ensuring that all individuals of all ages receive appropriate, comprehensive care by trained medical professionals in a supportive environment."

There is no federal ban on conversion therapy, and it is legal to practice on adults in all 50 states. Only 18 states, and the District of Columbia, have banned it for minors. Puerto Rico has also banned it from being practiced on anyone under the age of 18.

Booksellers have faced criticism in recent months for selling conversion therapy books, including Wordery, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

While Wordery has pulled those titles, Amazon has only removed a handful and continues to sell others pushing the same ideology. Barnes & Noble has failed to remove any of the conversion therapy titles and has not responded to requests for comment.