Legislating Stupid

I find the concept of gay conversion therapy abhorrent on every imaginable level, starting with the fact that it doesn't work, continuing with the fact that it's based on an uniformed and hateful (meaning, in most cases, a religious-based) belief that homosexuality is a choice, and ending with the fact that it does immeasurable psychological harm to its victims.

Other than that, no problem.

But I was pretty stunned when California passed a law banning it. My first reaction, given my thoughts on the matter, was sort of a wow, good for them. Until I thought about it.

Much as I agree with the idea that it shouldn't exist, banning a so-called treatment because it doesn't work, as a matter of law, seems a stretch. Not that I'd miss them, but consistency would require banning chiropractic except for certain back issues, virtually all naturopathy and homeopathy, reiki, prayer circles for illness, past life regression, about ninety percent of environmental allergy claims, most diagnoses of fibromyalgia (not entirely sure about the last two)... the list is long.

Since kids are the ones most adversely affected by gay conversion therapy, the ones forced into it anyway, by frightened and deeply misinformed parents, it might be a gray zone: maybe it's a form of punishable child abuse. But as long as those parents are sincere, and unless they'd been fully informed that the treatments don't work and do harm, I doubt it. Still, the idea of the state banning idiocy is a tough one. If it were possible, maybe control could be rendered via licensing: practitioners would only be licensed to perform treatments that work. Bye bye, woomeisters. But I can't deny that some of us physicians have been known to do interventions of questionable merit. (Hello effectiveness research.)

People get arrested for scamming; ponzi schemes are illegal, as is tricking old folks out of their money, or phony lottery-winning emails. We read about stuff like that all the time. So if it can be shown, unequivocally, that gay conversion therapy is a deliberate scam, maybe it falls into run-of-the-mill, non-medical, law-breaking. Especially if it were the case that practitioners knew they were running a game. But I doubt it. Like that awful and laughable (if it weren't so hurtful and heartbreaking) "facilitated communication" for autistic kids, the proponents were honest, if woefully deluded, believers in it.  (Watch that linked video, and be amazed that f.c. is still advocated by some.) Much more widespread than gay conversion therapy, and unequivocally debunked, if f.c. hasn't been banned (it hasn't), why the other?

If we could legislate away and protect people from their own stupidity, we'd not still be dealing with the damage being done by teabaggers in Congress. We'd have long since seen an end to so-called "alternative" medicine, and Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo would be off the air. But, despite the horror that it is, I think I'm among those that think banning gay conversion therapy is, in fact, the wrong way to handle it. I could be wrong, and maybe I hope I am.

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