LGBTQI+ and medicine: are we prepared to deliver dignified and non-discriminatory health care?

lgbti 19

(Jiroe, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Júlia Carolina Esteves de França, a 19 year-old medical student from Joinville, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is entitled to a series of conditions, which serve to ensure quality of life and protection, they include the right of life, recognition as a person, and the insurance of no subjection to degrading or inhuman treatment.

However, as observed throughout the years, the LGBTQI+ community has been denied fair and equal treatment, with this being extended to the health sphere. When thinking about the present, we can consider that the situation has substantially improved, for LGBTQI+ rights expanded, and new laws make it harder for discrimination cases to be disregarded.

Nevertheless, we still have a long path to course, there are countries that consider non-heterosexual non-cisgender individuals as criminals or inferior beings, thus complicating healthcare reach to this group. There is as well the need to address behaviors such as deeming LGBTQI+ people a “risk group” for some diseases and conditions, disregarding that such practices are also present in a heterosexual cisgender person’s life.

\Translating it to the healthcare realm, we likewise have to contemplate each professional’s opinion on the matter – for even though the ideal behavior should be unrelated to personal beliefs, it is not what happens at all times – and each countries’ government health projects and politics directed at the LGBTQI+ group.

The root of that inequality and differentiated medical care lies upon the fact that, throughout the progression of a medicine course, LGBTQI+ healthcare issues are only discussed in out-of-class moments. There is not really a focus on the matter, even though it has come to light as an extremely relevant subject.

Themes regarding any aspect of LGBTQI+ health are seen as controversial and are avoided in public health and medical procedures’ deliberations, which ends up on leaving it aside the big conversations on evolving and adapting medical assistance ensuring it encompasses everyone.

By analyzing this situation and considering all aspects of how this topic is approached, it is only sensible to say that nowadays providing dignified and non-discriminatory health care to the whole LGBTQI+ population is possible in minor spheres. It goes because when we are given proper orientation and insight on the matter, bearing in mind respect and empathy – crucial in any medical consultation – and contemplating the individual as a whole being – understanding their unique necessities and working towards the intent to fulfill them – we can personalize approach and treatment.

In some settings, groups of students and professionals understand the importance of reaching out to LGBTQI+ people so as to improve their form of contact and learn what can and should be done. However, we still lack space for studying, learning and dissertating over this topic, meaning that for a certain amount of time, healthcare for the LGBTQI+ parcel of the population will be neglected, and their needs only partially attended. Over time we are able to overcome taboos and restrictions tied to this subject and with effort change this situation for the better, reaching the point where we can have quality healthcare for everyone.

Reference

Un.org. (2019). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [online] Available at: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

About the author

Júlia Carolina Esteves de França is 19 years old. She lives in Joinville, Brazil. She has finished the second semester of the course and will begin the third in August. She has always liked to write and throughout life had teachers that encouraged her in doing so, they have pushed her forward into taking up challenges and setting high standards to achieve. Medicine college provides great opportunities in diverse areas, seeming to have an immense array of them to explore. She is passionate about helping people and working towards an equal world, where everyone can have their space.

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