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After Doctor Outcry, Gynecology Board Rolls Back Male Patient Ban

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has reversed its months-old rule that largely barred its board-certified specialists from treating men after critics said it negatively affected important research.

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has reversed its months-old rule that largely barred its board-certified specialists from treating men after critics said it negatively affected important research.

Perhaps it was a policy that meant well, but the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) found itself rolling back a rule change late last month.

On Thursday, the association announced that it would allow its certified obstetricians and gynecologists to treat male patients—months after it changed its rules to bar it. More details:

About the change: In September, the ABOG board posted a narrow definition of obstetrics and gynecology, limiting board-certified OB/GYN doctors to seeing male patients only for things such as circumcision, fertility treatment, and treating transgender patients, according to Reuters. The definition specifically banned members from performing certain medical procedures on men. The definition was intended to ensure that the field remains a female-only specialty, according to The New York Times. While the certification is voluntary and not required for practice, such standards are often desired by practicing specialists.

Research faces challenges: Soon after the ban was implemented, a number of researchers, such as Boston Medical Center’s Dr. Elizabeth Stier, said that the new rules threatened important medical research in areas outside the realm of gynecology where their expertise could be a benefit. In Stier’s case, her research on anal cancer was threatened. “My main issue here is that I don’t think my patients are going to get the follow-up that they need, and I think they’re going to be lost to care, and we take care of a very vulnerable patient population,” she told the Times regarding the issue in November.

Rolling back the decision: Days after the Times published its story, ABOG announced it was softening the rules. Then last week, the association published a revised decision canceling the requirement that board-certified OB/GYNs treat only women, and revised the requirement that they devote at least 75 percent of their practice to obstetrics and gynecology down to one stating that certified doctors “must devote the majority of their practice to the specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology.”

In a statement, ABOG emphasized that the new rules do not imply that the association endorses research outside of the doctor’s specialty, but that the issue (which it said affected only a small percentage of its membership) was taking away from the group’s work. “This issue became a distraction from our mission to ensure that women receive high quality and safe health care from certified obstetricians and gynecologists,” stated Dr. Larry Gilstrap, ABOG’s executive director, in the press release announcing the change.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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