UK regulator to apologise to gay doctors struck off because of sexuality

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The UK medical regulator is to apologise to gay doctors struck off because of their sexuality, the Guardian can reveal.

The General Medical Council will issue a formal apology to medics it investigated, sanctioned, issued warnings to or banned from practising due to convictions they had under now-repealed legislation outlawing male homosexuality.

Established in 1858, the GMC is one of the world’s oldest medical bodies and the independent regulator of doctors working in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It has the power to begin inquiries that can ultimately determine whether medics can continue to treat patients.

Between 1899 and 1994, it initiated fitness to practise proceedings against at least 40 male doctors because of their sexuality, according to the results of a recent internal investigation by the GMC. At least eight were struck off the medical register as a result – unable to practise medicine ever again.

Charlie Massey, the chief executive of the GMC, said the findings uncovered by its review were “shocking” and apologised for the harm caused to doctors’ professional and personal lives.

“As a regulator we took action against male doctors who were convicted of engaging, or attempting to engage, in consensual sexual activity with other men,” he said. “We adversely impacted, and in some cases ended, careers. For that we want to apologise.”

In a statement to be issued on Thursday, the GMC will express how “truly sorry” it was for the actions taken against doctors with convictions under homophobic laws that it said would now be considered unjust.

In the apology, Prof Dame Carrie MacEwen, the GMC chair, will say: “Homophobic laws and attitudes, that were in place into the 1980s and beyond, caused personal and professional harm.

“We compounded that harm when we also took additional regulatory action against those who were on the medical register. In some cases that meant the end of a practitioner’s career. For this we are truly sorry.”

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