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“Conversion Therapy”: Is This Malpractice?


On January 24th, the New York Times featured an important story about a type of alleged abuse and injury that many are unaware of: Conversion Therapy. Many people do not realize that it is still legal in 41 states, including Florida.

This “therapy” consisted of years and years of what many would describe as intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress: being told over again that you—as a minor—are an abomination, alone, headed towards AIDS, etc.

Assault and Battery?

Unfortunately, the verbal component just covers the emotional aspect of : conversion therapy: those subjected to it are also typically bound to a table, and have ice, heat, and electricity applied to their bodies, all while they are forced to view “images” that are considered to be wrong and “sinful,” with the goal being that the individual eventually associates those images with physical pain they’ve experienced. Many who have undergone this procedure are so damaged that they contemplate committing suicide and/or suffer from depression, self-hatred, drug abuse, and a variety of other psychological harms.

Hundreds of Thousands Affected Every Year

If you think this affects a small number of people each year, think again: According to one study, nearly 700,000 adults have been subjected to conversion therapy at some point, with approximately 350,000 of those while they were minors. Many of these teens receive it from healthcare professionals, while others receive it via religious or “spiritual advisers.”

Is Conversion Therapy Malpractice?

Many might be wondering: How is this legal (and does not constitute medical malpractice and/or negligence) if professional health associations such as the American Medical Association have officially deemed it harmful? Isn’t that a clear-cut personal injury and/or medical malpractice claim?

In fact, some state legislatures have introduced bills that technically relegate conversion therapy to the status of malpractice, allowing people to file lawsuits against practitioners who provide these services. In addition, in 2016-2018 a federal bill (the “Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act”) was introduced in Congress would have declared any efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity as “fraudulent.” The bill states, outright, that professionals have determined that conversion therapy is dangerous to an individual’s mental and physical health.

Florida state law defines an action for malpractice as a claim arising out of any treatment or care by any provider of healthcare due to the death, injury, or monetary loss to any person. While the state does not ban conversion therapy, some cities—such as Tampa—have decided to do so on a local level. In March of last year, the Tampa City Council approved an ordinance barring the practice, allowing any therapists, counselors, or others who offer it to be fined between $1,000 and $5,000.

Florida Malpractice & Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been harmed at the hands of a healthcare professional or other individual, contact our experienced Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedland & Associates today for a free consultation and find out what your options are to receive justice.


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