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College responds to Ministry’s Conversion Therapy announcement

Recently, Ontario's Minister of Health, Dr. Eric Hoskins, issued a statement regarding the use of conversion (or reparative) therapy to change an individual’s sexual orientation. In a letter to the College, the minister stated: 

The premise that sexuality or gender identity is a pathology that may be cured through medical or psychological intervention is outdated and potentially damaging to patients. No credible or reputable health organization supports ‘conversion therapy’; most have taken the step of condemning it in position statements, policies or practice guidelines. Furthermore, this therapy reinforces societal intolerance and stigmatization of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender community.

Nurses are accountable for meeting the standards in all aspects of their nursing practice.

The Professional Standards are clear that nursing care be evidence-based and meet the needs of clients. Any therapy that is not supported by evidence cannot be considered in the client's best interest. Suggesting that a client undergo such a therapy may be considered professional misconduct.

Other College practice standards state nurses’ accountability around such issues. For example, the College's Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship practice standard reads: "Respect is the recognition of the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual..." and emphasizes the importance of client-centred care.

The College's Ethics practice standard outlines how nurses can handle situations in which their personal beliefs conflict with those of patients to the point that they feel they cannot provide care.

Nurses have specialized knowledge and a position of power within the health care system. Because of this, a power imbalance exists in the nurse-client relationship. Nurses should not use their knowledge or position to inappropriately influence client decision-making. To do so could be considered abuse.

Heath care providers, employers and members of the public who know of practitioners who are providing care that would not meet the practice standards of their profession should notify the appropriate health profession regulatory college. 

View a copy of the Minister’s letter and the College's response

The standards and learning tools are available at www.cno.org/learning

Page last reviewed May 05, 2015