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UK gays seek compensation over 'cures'

By PAUL GOULD

LONDON, Aug. 8 -- Aversion therapy administered to gay men as a 'cure' for homosexuality in the 1960s and 1970s caused lasting psychological damage and one death, the British Broadcasting Company reported Thursday night in a television documentary. The documentary, 'Dark Secret,' detailed the cases of three men -- one of whom died after treatment -- and prompted demands from gay pressure group OutRage for compensation and new rules to stamp out the treatment. The therapy involved showing the men homoerotic images while subjecting them to electric shocks and drug-induced nausea in an effort to arouse unpleasant associations with homosexual attraction. An article preceding the broadcast in the gay magazine Thud said former tank captain Billy Clegg-Hill, then 29, 'died from coma and convulsions resulting from injections of apomorphine, a potent vomit- inducing drug.' Clegg-Hill was sent for aversion therapy in 1962 after being arrested for homosexual activity, but died only days into the treatment. His death certificate recorded a verdict of 'natural causes,' but this was disputed more than 30 years later by the doctor who conducted the post-mortem and by Clegg-Hill's sister, Alison Garthwaite. 'It isn't natural causes in my opinion,' Thud quoted Dr. Richard Goodbody as saying, while Garthwaite told the documentary: 'It amazes me that anyone could think it would work, that it would turn them on to women.' 'I think they must have had punishment in mind as much as cure,' she added. One of the men featured in the program, Peter Price, said his mother pressured him to take aversion therapy because she wanted grandchildren.

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Price said his doctor referred him to a psychiatric hospital, where he was given gay pornography and a supply of his favorite beer. Later he was injected with nausea-inducing drugs, but was denied a bowl and was forced to lie in a bed full of his own vomit. 'After 72 hours I said: 'Hey, I want out; if this is supposed to make me better, I don't want to be better,'' Price told the program. Peter Tatchell, who heads OutRage, told United Press International that an OutRage survey of psychiatric clinics found that aversion therapy might still be available to lesbians and gays in 'exceptional circumstances.' 'The psychiatric profession has a history of collusion with police, the courts and prisons in repressing homosexuality,' Tatchell said. 'Those doctors have wrecked lives and an apology is long overdue.' Tatchell wrote to Health Secretary Stephen Dorell, urging him to mount an inquiry into the treatment, demanding compensation and calling for new health department guidelines on aversion therapy. The ministry said gay men who had suffered were 'entitled to redress,' but should pursue the cases 'with the clinicians concerned.' 'We are not aware of the National Health Service using aversion therapy to cure homosexuality,' a health department spokesman said. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which Tatchell also addressed with demands for compensation and an end to aversion therapies, denied knowledge of similar treatment still being practiced in Britain. But the college's former vice-president, Professor Sydney Brandon, told UPI that aversion therapy developed to treat phobias and compulsive disorders had sometimes been used on people 'whose sexuality was ambivalent.' 'The college had a good deal of anxiety about aversion therapy and attempted to produce guidelines,' Brandon said. 'Many who did take treatment came under coercion, especially from the military, and under fear of potential prosecution.' Brandon insisted, however, that 'the vast majority were unaffected,' and that the practice of 'using induced vomiting was quickly abandoned' due to a combination of doubts about ethics and its effectiveness.

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