Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Consensual Conversion Therapy: Individual Autonomy v. Harm to the Gay Community (944)

Taryn Knox 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, OTAGO, New Zealand

Conversion therapy consists of methods used to alter an individual’s sexuality, predominantly from homosexual to heterosexual. While conversion therapy is currently ineffective, the advances of neuroscience mean this may change (Earp et al 2014). As effective conversion therapy may reduce the suffering of gay people, then so long as it is consensual conversion therapy may be ethically acceptable. There are two main counterarguments. The first is that given the maltreatment of gay people, conversion therapy cannot be truly consensual (Cruz in Earp et al 2014, 9). The second – the focus of this presentation - is that effective, truly consensual conversion therapy harms the Queer community (Behrmann and Ravitsky 2014; Gupta 2012) and so is unacceptable. The presentation considers the tension between an individual’s autonomy to make choices that benefit themselves and limiting autonomy to minimise harm to the community (in this case, the Queer community.)





  1. Berhmann, Jason and Vardit Ravitsky. 2014. Turning queer villages into ghost towns: a community perspective on conversion therapies. AJOB Neuroscience, 5, 14–16.
  2. Earp, Brian D., Anders Sandberg, and Julian Savulescu. 2014. Brave new love: the threat of high-tech ‘conversion’ therapy and the bio-oppression of sexual minorities. AJOB Neuroscience, 5, 4–12.
  3. Gupta, Kristina. 2012. Protecting sexual diversity: rethinking the use of neurotechnological interventions to alter sexuality. AJOB Neuroscience, 3, 24–8.