Patient care

House adds patient’s sexual orientation to AOA’s nondiscrimination statement

“We’re showing the LGBT community they can trust us,” student says.

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.


  1. Our profession is deeply concerned about the health of our patients and the population in general. Discrimination has been reserved for the gender and race of our patients, not from lifestyle choices. We try hard to encourage change for lifetsyles that harm our patients, such as smoking, alcohol, diet, and excercise. Homosexuality is a harmful behavior and there are many statistics that show this. While I have several patients who have homosexual lifestyles and gender identity disorders, they do not receive any different medical attention than others. I am saddened that our profession is going the way of mainstream America and accepting this lifestyle as acceptable and then protecting it as well. I would rather see our AOA delegates formulate a concensus on the health risks and develop a strategy to help ourpatients overcome these harmful behaviors.

  2. Rr, I am deeply concerned for your patients that you refer to homosexuality and gender identity as a “disorder”. Please refer them to another physician that can better take care of them. It’s unfair to them that as a physician, that you should have such a biased viewpoint. Your patients deserve better.

  3. To RR,
    Homosexuality is a phenotype of multi-factorial origin. Studies examining the concordance of sexual orientation between genetic twins separated at birth suggest a significant genetic component. Sexual orientation is also strongly correlated with prenatal developmental conditions. Even if we were to entertain the possibility that sexual orientation is completely non biologically determined, discrimination is still unethical for the same reason discrimination against a patient of a different religion is unethical. Your acknowledgment that you do not provide different care for your LGBTI patients is a confession of substandard care. Particularly concerning is your interpretation of LGBTI health disparity statistics as evidence for the intrinsic unhealthiness of sexual minorities. Like other persecuted minorities, social determinants of health adversely affect LGBTI people. Your bigotry is a dishonor to our profession.

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