What started as a group of osteopathic medical students from Maine forming a club dedicated to supporting the health care rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients has led to a change in the AOA Code of Ethics. A unanimous vote by the AOA House of Delegates yesterday amends the code’s nondiscrimination statement to say that physicians should not refuse to accept patients because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This vote is a statement that members of the American Osteopathic Association are not going to discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We’re showing the LGBT community they can trust us,” Christine Fitzsimmons, OMS III, an alternate Maine delegate, told The DO.
Fitzsimmons explained, “Many in the LGBT community are not comfortable seeking medical care because they are afraid of being judged.”
While speaking in support of the resolution during a committee review meeting on Friday, Fitzsimmons said, “It’s of great importance that all of our patients feel comfortable.”
During that review meeting, someone voiced concern that the proposed amendment would force physicians who are uncomfortable with LGBT individuals to treat them. In response, Fitzsimmons said in an interview, “This resolution is not about anyone’s personal prejudices. It’s about the patient and protecting the patient’s health.”
Originally introduced at last year’s House of Delegates meeting, the resolution was dismissed because of procedural violations. The Student Osteopathic Medical Association submitted both last year’s and this year’s resolutions.
Fitzsimmons says the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents, of which she is the national secretary, is considering helping develop another resolution aimed at preventing discrimination against osteopathic medical students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. “Now that we’ve taken care of protecting patients, we need to take care of ourselves,” she said.