Its not just mental health studies: Doctors rarely ask adolescent patients about their sexual orientation & LGBT youth are afraid of bias

A recent report underscores the paucity of mental health research relevant to LGBT patients.  According to Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D., Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education this unfortunate situation is not unique to research studies.

“In our work with LGBT youth, we continuously find that physicians rarely discuss sexual orientation with teenage patients and that when they do it is often accompanied by derogatory statements that stifle any honest doctor-patient rapport,” Fisher explained.

With a grant from the National Institute for Minority Health Disparities, Fisher and her colleague Brian Mustanski, Ph.D. of Northwestern University have been exploring these and related ethical issues in sexual health and substance abuse research involving LGBT youth.

Fisher, who is the Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and director of the Fordham HIV/Drug Abuse Research Ethics Institute notes that “in surveys and focus groups with LGBT youth we have repeatedly found that teens report keeping their sexual orientation a secret from their regular pediatrician or family physicians out of fear of being criticized or outed to their parents.”

“Physician’s failure to discuss LGBT sexual orientation in an affirming and supportive manner is particularly harmful for sexual and gender minority teens, whose sexual health informational needs can be very different from any information provided when a doctor assumes teens are heterosexual,” she added.

The Fordham University Center for Ethics Education operates a resource for LGBT youth — please visit http://www.facebook.com/lgbtrelay for more information, or to “like” the page for updates. Please also visit our resource page for creating an LGBTQ-inclusive classroom.


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