Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The ethics of sexual reorientation: what should clinicians and researchers do?
  1. Sean Aas1,
  2. Candice Delmas2
  1. 1Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Department Philosophy and Political Science, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sean Aas, Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Room 1C118, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA; sean.aas{at}


Technological measures meant to change sexual orientation are, we have argued elsewhere, deeply alarming, even and indeed especially if they are safe and effective. Here we point out that this in part because they produce a distinctive kind of ‘clinical collective action problem’, a sort of dilemma for individual clinicians and researchers: a treatment which evidently relieves the suffering of particular patients, but in the process contributes to a practice that substantially worsens the conditions that produce this suffering in the first place. We argue that the role obligations of clinicians to relieve the suffering of their patients put them in a poor position to solve this problem, though they can take measures to avoid complicity in the harms that would result from widespread use of individually safe and effective reorientation biotechnology. But in the end the medical community as a whole still seems obligated to provide these measures, if they become technologically feasible. Medical researchers are in a better position to prevent the harms that would result if reorientation techniques were safe, effective and widely available. We argue that the harms attendant on the development of safe and effective re-orientation techniques give researchers reason to avoid ‘applied‘ research aimed at developing these techniques, and to be careful in the conduct of basic orientation research which might be applied in this way.

  • Ethics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you