'Gay cure' doctor faces complaint on conduct

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am


A Hong Kong psychiatrist who claims to be able to 'cure' gay people is the subject of a groundbreaking disciplinary complaint to the Medical Council.

Dr Hong Kwai-wah has been reported to the council over comments he made to an RTHK programme which, the complainant said, breached the professional code of conduct issued by the council.

If the council takes up the complaint, it will be the first time it has considered the issue of so-called conversion therapy, an increasingly controversial subject around the world.

Hong said he was unaware of any complaint to the council and was confident that if there was one it would not be substantiated.

The doctor is chairman of the New Creation Association, a Christian organisation. He denies converting gay people but says his psychiatric treatment can provide alternatives for homosexuals who want to change their lifestyle.

Hong shot to prominence last year when the Social Welfare Department invited him to speak to social workers about giving guidance to young gays, prompting demonstrations in Hong Kong and abroad.

He was a guest on RTHK's Laughter Starts from the Family, hosted by Cheung Siu-yung, in which he said gay people could be 'changed' or 'cured' and that homosexuals acquired their sexual preferences because of childhood experiences, parenting and sexual abuse.

The complainant says Hong may have breached the code of conduct by presenting minority or disputed views as fact and by presenting misleading information.

One gay activist said Hong's therapy was based on the assumption that homosexuality is an illness.

'[Being] gay is not a sickness. Much research found it could not be treated and should not be seen as a problem,' he said, and offering such 'treatment' went against medical ethics. Homosexuality was formally dropped as a mental disorder in 1973.

Hong said his work was prompted by requests for help from gay people.

'I am aware that same-sex attraction, once it is built, is hardly able to be eliminated or deleted completely,' Hong said. 'But some homosexuals feel bad about their lifestyle, and are seeking professional help to change their unhappy life.'

Dr Ting Sik-Chuen, a specialist in psychiatry who practises in the private sector, said psychiatrists remained neutral on conversion therapy, as research had found pros and cons.

'A doctor should respect his patient's will, and there should not be any value judgment on the sexual inclination of the patient,' Ting said.

Dr Choi Kin, a member of the Medical Council, refused to comment on an individual case but said doctors had to base their views on science.

Gay groups from as far away as New York protested when Hong was invited to speak to social workers.