One day after the airing of a show in which Dr. Oz discussed “both sides” of a debunked and dangerous practice, often called “reparative therapy”, he has now written a blog post distancing himself from the practice.
In a joint statement issued following the show, GLAAD, PFLAG, and GLSEN roundly condemned the show’s placement of so-called “reparative therapy” practitioners alongside doctors and people who have been harmed by their experience in such programs.
In his blog, Dr. Oz has taken a less neutral position, pointing out that the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and other respected medical organizations completely oppose such programs. He continues to maintain that conversations about such practices need to be had, but finally weighs in with his own position.
Some guests argued that they have been changed through these treatments, but I was overwhelmed by the pain of individuals hurt by the experience. After listening to both sides of the issue and after reviewing the available medical data, I agree with the established medical consensus. I have not found enough published data supporting positive results with gay reparative therapy, and I have concerns about the potentially dangerous effects when the therapy fails, especially when minors are forced into treatments.
My biggest epiphany occurred after hearing where the opposing groups found some common ground. The guests who appeared on my show on either side of this debate agreed that entering into any therapy with guilt and self-hate is a major error. Trying to change who you are instead of loving who you are leads to broken spirits and broken hearts. Encouraging self-acceptance is the only way to help alleviate the shame experienced by those who are struggling with their sexuality – and help them reach a place where who they are matches who they want to be.
GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG yesterday criticized Dr. Oz for not weighing in on the program and called for him to speak out.
Producers of the Dr. Oz Show framed their program on so-called reparative therapy in a way that provided a lengthy platform for junk science. The first two segments of the show featured two proponents of so-called reparative therapy, neither of whom was challenged, at any point, by Dr. Oz or any guests. These two “ex-gay” activists, however, were invited to stay and rebut statements by opponents throughout the rest of the program. NARTH representative Julie Hamilton was introduced by Dr. Oz as an “expert” and spoke to countless parents and youth in the audience, as if NARTH’s work and practices represent legitimate and acceptable medical practices. Producers held conversations with GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG National leading up to the episode, but did not disclose that a representative of NARTH would be featured. Although the show also featured guests who condemned the idea and practice of “reparative therapy,” Dr. Oz himself never weighed in, and the audience was misled to believe that there are actual experts on both sides of this issue. There are not.
To be clear, Dr. Oz does place himself with the vast majority of medical and mental health professionals that says that the practice of so-called “reparative therapy” is dangerous, with no evidence of how such practice can help individuals. Dr. Oz has also posted follow-up videos with representatives of GLAAD and GLSEN. These videos are aimed at helping LGBT people and their loved ones get the support they need.
Even with this statement, it seems as though Dr. Oz is attempting to be more neutral than he really is. The time stamp for his blog is 11/28/2012 at 8:47 AM, well before the program aired. Additionally, if you look at the URL, you can see that the blog post was originally titled something like, "The gay cure: shame masquerading as medicine." That is certainly quite different than the more innocuous sounding "The Reparative Therapy Controversy," which still implies that this is an ongoing debate, which it is not.
It is a positive step that Dr. Oz has finally publicly stated that he is not neutral on such a dangerous practice. However, issuing a blog statement does not negate the fact that millions of people watched his program and potentially walked away hoping to find a way to hide or repress a part of themselves, or worse, their children. As a new lawsuit against JONAH, a Jewish “ex-gay” program is demonstrating, anyone who felt for the promises of change from Dr. Oz’s guests may be at best disappointed, and at worst severely damaged. The media must handle this topic responsibly, or risk spreading dangerous, unchallenged misinformation to audiences.