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article image'Gay cure' psychiatrist apologizes to gays for flawed study

By Marlene de Wilde     May 20, 2012 in Science
Dr Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus of Columbia University responsible for the 2001 study 'proving' that gays could be cured if they had the motivation, has apologized for founding his conclusion on a 'fatally flawed' study.
According to the Guardian, Spitzer published his apology in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, saying, "I believe I owe the gay community an apology. I also apologise to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works."
Spitzer presented a paper supporting reparative therapy for gay men and women wanting to change their sexual orientation. He based his claims on interviews of 200 homosexuals who supposedly changed their ways to some degree after undergoing such therapy. In his apology, he admits that there was no control group with which to compare results and the interviews were based solely on unverifiable self reports.
Furthermore, according to Forbes, these interviews were conducted over the phone, thus reducing further the ability of the researcher to evaluate non-verbal clues that may cast doubt on the truthfulness of the responses being given.
Now 79 years old and suffering from Parkinson's disease, and despite becoming one of modern psychiatry's most influential scientists, Spitzer feels guilty about the damaging affect his report has had on the gay community.
Reparative therapy was not the brainchild of Spitzer but his study did much to give it legitimacy. The majority of his professional peers did not support his work but socially conservative groups pounced on it and used it for their own political purposes. While he did not imply that being gay was a choice, this is the way it was interpreted by those whose causes it suited. Many religious groups use the study to justify their 'pray away the gay' movement.
The website, a non-profit organization fighting anti-gay religious extremism, responded to the news by saying, " Dr. Spitzer should be applauded for doing the right thing. It is never easy, particularly for successful people who are leaders in their field, to apologize or acknowledge wrongdoing. But, this is exactly what Dr. Spitzer did and we at Truth Wins Out are grateful that he is a man of integrity and conscience." In a press release, they stated that the apology "places a definitive period at the end of a long, and often troubling, run-on sentence."
More about Gay, Gay cure, pray away the gay
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