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Once upon a time, I tried lawsuits for a living.  “Plaintiffs,” “defendants,” “negligence,” “foreseeability,” “standard of care,” and “reasonable man” were the jargon of the litigation attorney.  Many of my cases fit the category of “professional liability,” aka malpractice.  I served as attorney, on both sides, in professional liability cases against engineers, insurance agents, attorneys, chiropractors, and, especially, medical doctors.

Would a malpractice claim against conversion therapists be successful?

Here’s the medical negligence rule in Minnesota.

The prevailing professional standard of care for a given health care provider shall be that level of care, skill and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.
Since the recognized medical, psychiatric, psychological, and counseling organizations have issued statements debunking conversion therapy (aka reparative therapy) as ineffectual and harmful, would it not be possible to sue practitioners for failing to provide “that level of care, skill and treatment … recognized as acceptable and appropriate?”

A different legal theory, consumer fraud, is behind a lawsuit recently filed against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) in New Jersey.

Four former JONAH clients, who were teens when they signed up for help, filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against JONAH and two of its counselors Tuesday, saying they were defrauded by JONAH's claim that "being gay is a mental disorder" that could be reversed by conversion therapy -- "a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association four decades ago," the lawsuit said.
According to CNN:
"This is the first time that plaintiffs have sought to hold conversion therapists liable in a court of law," said Samuel Wolfe, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Meanwhile, a California law recently went into effect that bans conversion therapy for persons under 18 years of age.
California's conversion-therapy ban … was one of the signature bills passed by the Legislature this year. The law prohibits minors from being subject to therapies aimed at changing their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Under the law, therapists who practice conversion therapy on minors risk loss of their licenses or other discipline by the state.
When California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, he stated, "these practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."

Not so fast.  Conversion therapists have immediately gone to court seeking to overturn the law.  One judge has allowed the law to stand, but in a real head-scratcher, a second judge has issued a temporary injunction against the law on the basis that the free speech rights of the conversion therapists outweigh the potential of harm to minors subjected to the therapy.  Really?  You can’t make this stuff up.

Wayne Beson, in a blog on Huffington Post, calls out the up-is-down, Alice in Wonderland, lunacy of the decision:

It seems that Judge Shubb is a bit confused about the First Amendment. He appears to believe that it gives mental health providers license to say whatever they want, even if it is not in the best interest of clients. Such thinking makes a mockery of medicine … the judge seems blissfully unaware that the toxic words of a biased shrink can sometimes be as harmful as a scalpel in the wrong hands. The wounds of "ex-gay" survivors are real, devastating and can sometimes last a lifetime.
Shubb should fully understand that when he protects reparative therapists, he is wholeheartedly promoting and endorsing such outlandish quackery. It becomes particularly damaging when such demented "therapeutic" techniques are practiced on LGBT youth.
In another example of false equivalency in which all views are considered equal, even when repugnant, dangerous, and demonstrably false, the Anoka School District in Minnesota is back in the news.  This is the largest school district in the state that garnered unfavorable national attention in the last couple of years due to a number of teen suicides following bullying.  At issue was the district’s neutrality policy in which teachers and administrators were required to remain neutral when issues of human sexuality were discussed; critics claimed that this elevated the views of homophobic bullies to equal footing with tolerance and respect.  Following a lawsuit, the district eliminated the policy and also set up an Anti-Bullying Task Force.  A Minneapolis Star Tribune report today suggests there is further controversy on the Task Force.

Apparently, in another misguided notion of fairness, the school board believed the point of view of the bullies ought to be represented on the Task Force, and a known gay-basher was appointed.  The School Board chair said the man was appointed because the Task Force should be “a diverse community.” Upside down diversity.

Now, a petition is circulating in the district seeking that person’s removal, claiming he "uses his personal faith as a weapon and represents the anti-LGBTQ bigotry that is STILL hurting kids in our district."

"To imply that [he] lends balance is so disingenuous," [a parent] said. "His position is very clear, and the effects of that rhetoric are painfully clear in this district. ... This has nothing to do with balance. It has nothing to do with opposing views. It's one thing to have opposing beliefs, but this is about opposing the existence of students."
Reprinted with permission from Spirit of a Liberal blog.
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Comment Preferences

  •  I know two Jehovah Witness sisters (0+ / 0-)

    They are both devout Jehovah Witness in their  20's,  i wrote them over the Thankgiving holiday  , they never brought the subject of religion around me ,so i brought up the subject of religion too them in the letter , I think the youngest sister was very receptive too the letter ,i wrote both them a letter from a liberal perpective ,  this is probably thier first letter from a liberal perspective about life, they were probably surprise about me knowing all the internal Jehovah Witness rules ,that are guarded until a person ,make the commitment to being baptize as real Jehovah Witness , i have never been too a Kingdom Hall  and they never invited me to study with them, I am in the process of writing    them a second letter ,using my inside knowledge of what ,i learned from    a Ex Jehovah  Witness blog, I have already conceded too them all the thing they believe about the world and Non Jehovah Witness, since i am  generally i  skeptical  of the bible as being just a bunch of writing that were   written  thousand of years ago, I am more concerned about thier long term emotion well being than anything

  •  SB 1172 is not yet in effect (0+ / 0-)

    It will go into effect on January 1.

    Judge Shubb's injunction against it applies only to the providers who are suing, and to their clients. He has not stayed the law entirely.

  •  The New York Times, at one point (0+ / 0-)

    When they covered a lynching, also included an interview with  Ku Klux Klan spokesman (no women) "explaining" why the lynching was necessary and correct. The Times thought that was needed for "balance". Around the 1920s they figured out (duh!) that there is no "other side" to lynching.

    Would this school also have a Nazi presenter during discussions of 20th century European history to explain why the Holocaust was a) necessary and b) never happened?

  •  There is a precident for malpractice in NJ (0+ / 0-)

    This one's not a gay conversion case but it might be instructive. The case is Corter vs. Kids of North Jersey. A teenaged girl named Lulu Corter was forced into a wackadoodle teen "drug rehab" in the 1980's even though she had never so much as smoked a joint in her life. IIRC she had a sibling already in the program and they pressured her mom into putting her in rehab for her "druggie image" (clothing, music, etc.). These guys kept her locked up in rehab for 13 years. The book Help At Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz discusses the case at length in the last two chapters.

    “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Lyndon Baines Johnson

    by spacecadet1 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 02:16:32 PM PST

  •  Another show trial? (0+ / 0-)

    Why is the Southern Poverty Law Center getting into a cut-and-dried fraud suit or malpractice case?

    There are no civil rights issues here so why is a "civil rights law center" involved?

    The plaintiffs are not indigent and there is no shortage of excellent fraud attorneys in New Jersey.

    It certainly seems like a cynical public relations ploy by the fundraisers at the SPLC. Couldn't the Center's time and money be better spent helping people who are truly in need?

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