Pediatric group distorts research

A group called the American College of Pediatricians has recently issued a press release and sent a letter to every school district in the country. The name is very similar to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and no doubt intended to be mistaken for that body of respected physicians.

Formed in reaction to the AAP statements on child raising by gay and lesbian parents, ACP believes that no one is "born gay" and therefore there should be no support for gay and lesbian children and youth.

According to Truth Wins Out

The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a small, mostly southern anti-gay advocacy group consisting of notorious activists and angry doctors who have an axe to grind with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are upset because the group has a pro-gay stance (and scientific) that claims:
Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.

To counter the AAP’s research-based conclusion, the ACP produced an error-riddled website, Facts About Youth, that grossly distorts research for political gain. To read more on this bastardization of real science check out Box Turtle Bulletin and Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s sites. Worse, the ACP sent a letter to more than 10,000 school superintendents to promote the site. One can only imagine the harm this might do to LGBT youth who come out in school.

Today, Dr. Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H., a University of Minnesota researcher wrote a blistering letter to the American College of Pediatricians to hold them accountable for misusing his research. Here is the letter in its entirety. Take the time to read it – it is worth it.


Letter below:

TO: American College of Pediatricians

Dear colleagues,

I am deeply concerned about misstatements attributed to our research on the “Facts about Youth” website of the American College of Pediatricians (http://factsaboutyouth.com/ [accessed on April 12, 2010]), as they appear in the “Letter to School Officials” and “What You Should Know as a School Official.”

The first reference to our research in these documents deceptively states: “Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25. In one study, as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation1…”

Although the finding (“26% of 12-year-olds…”) is accurately reported, the sentence preceding it invites misinterpretation. Our original interpretation, as presented in the discussion section of the paper, is: “Taken together, these data suggest that uncertainty about sexual orientation and perceptions of bisexuality gradually give way to heterosexual or homosexual identification with passage of time and/or with increasing sexual experience.”

The second reference to our research in your handout erroneously states:

Among adolescents who claim a “gay” identity, the health risks include higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and suicide. Delaying such labeling significantly reduces these medical and psychiatric health risks. For example, researchers find that adolescents who defer “coming out as gay” decrease the risk of suicide at a rate of 20 percent for each year that they delay self-labeling as homosexual or bisexual.15

This paragraph is wrong on two counts:

1) It incorrectly reports the results of the research and, once again, misrepresents the conclusions. As a matter of fact, we wrote:

For each year’s delay in homosexual or bisexual self-labeling, the odds of a suicide attempt diminished by 80%. These findings support a previously observed, inverse relationship between psychosocial problems and the age of acquiring a homosexual identity. Compared with older adolescents, early and middle adolescents may be generally less able to cope with the isolation and stigma of a homosexual identity;

2) Citing our work (reference #15) at the end of the paragraph would attribute the content of the entire paragraph to our publication when, in fact, the first sentence (“Among adolescents who claim…”) is not what we have written.

As the first author of the two publications in question and the authorized contact for related communications, I am responding to the inaccuracies in your website documents on behalf of the investigative group. However, the following reactions and suggested remedies are from my own personal perspective, and my co-authors may contribute additional thoughts and suggestions at their discretion.

I have previously encountered and confronted the problem of misrepresentation of research from other advocacy groups such as yours. However, this episode is especially troubling and egregious because it is led by colleagues within my own profession— who certainly have the ability, education, and experience to access, review, and accurately summarize the Pediatric scientific literature.

Our professional code demands of Pediatricians nothing short of the highest standards of ethical conduct in medical education, research, and patient care. Knowingly misrepresenting research findings for material or personal gain is a flagrant violation of this code of conduct. Implicating me in this chicanery is doubly damaging to my professional reputation and career by holding me accountable for misstatements and by associating me with a cause that most ethical Pediatricians will recognize as misguided and hurtful to an entire class of children and families.

Please immediately remove any reference to our work from the website. As a suitable remedy, I also would urge you take the following actions:

1) Publicly retract your references to our research with a written statement posted on the home page of your website;

2) Until then, any donations made to your organization since the “Facts about Youth” website was launched should be either returned to the donors or contributed to the LGBT youth research fund of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

I look forward to your prompt attention and response to these issues.

Sincerely,

Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Minnesota
CC: Robert Blum, M.D., PhD; Michael Resnick PhD; James Farrow M.D.

Comments (1)

Wow. And what a good reinforcement to George Clifford's piece at the Daily Episcopalian, especially the challenge to a 'theology' based on 'natural law' where actual observation of nature is excluded a priori from changing what we understand is natural. It doesn't just happen in the name of theology. Claiming the rigor of science, it happens too - and the same way, cherrypicking data and beyond that quoting out of context. Thanks for posting this, Ann.

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