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GMC apologises for historic injustices against doctors due to homophobic laws

The General Medical Council (GMC) has issued a formal apology to doctors for historic sanctions based on convictions under homophobic laws.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has issued a formal apology to doctors for historic sanctions based on convictions under homophobic laws and for compounding any further harm.

The GMC, which has been an independent regulator of the UK medical profession for more than 160 years, said it taken regulatory action during that time period against a number of doctors because they had convictions based on sexuality.

Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, Chair of the GMC, said historically it had considered cases against at least 40 practitioners for engaging, or attempting to engage, in consensual sexual activity and intimacy with other men.

She added: “Homophobic laws and attitudes, that were in place into the 1980s and beyond, caused personal and professional harm. We compounded that harm when we also took additional regulatory action against those who were on the medical register. In some cases that meant the end of a practitioner’s career. For this we are truly sorry.”

The GMC’s archivist, working with members of the regulator’s LGBTQ+ staff network, has searched records for cases of doctors who were subject to fitness to practise proceedings because they had criminal convictions based on sexuality. The last confirmed erasure was in 1966, although other doctors were issued with warnings.

Homophobic prejudice against LGBTQ+ doctors still exists

Dr Duncan McGregor, of GLADD – The Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists, said: “GLADD welcomes this apology by the GMC for the historic injustices of regulatory action taken against doctors due to homophobic laws. The profound impact of these actions on their lives cannot be overstated. This apology is an important step in righting the wrongs of the past and, while the hurt and damage that has been caused to those doctors cannot be undone, it is important to acknowledge past injustices.

“Although the threat of erasure from the medical register due to a doctor’s sexuality no longer looms, prejudice against LGBTQ+ healthcare staff persists to this day. This apology represents progress towards justice for those impacted by these historic homophobic laws, and progress for the LGBTQ+ community. We hope this gesture brings some measure of solace to those affected doctors and their loved ones.

“It is particularly important to recognise that this initiative came from within the GMC, and we extend our gratitude to members of the GMC’s LGBTQ+ staff network for their work and dedication in helping to bring about this apology.”

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