February 3, 2014

OB-GYN board reverses ban on treating male patients

Daily Briefing

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) last week reversed a policy barring certified ob-gyns from treating male patients amid continuing backlash against the more stringent rules ABOG posted in September 2013.

Should gynecologists treat men?

The September rules barred treatment of male patients in nearly all cases and required certified members to devote at least 75% of their practice to obstetrics and gynecology. The rules prompted complaints from ob-gyns who were screening male patients for anal cancer, as well as from physicians, patients, and physical therapists who asked ABOG to make an exception for ob-gyns who treat men for chronic pelvic pain.

In November, ABOG partially revised the definition to permit certified ob-gyns to continue screening men for anal cancer. The board revised the definition again in December, this time to permit ob-gyns to continue treating male patients with pelvic pain, although it prohibited them from taking on new patients with the condition.

On Jan. 10, attorney Tom Curtis threatened to sue ABOG on behalf of ob-gyn David Matlock, who specializes in cosmetic vaginal operations and performs liposuction on men and women, unless the definition's ban on treating male patients was overturned. Curtis argued that the rules violated antitrust laws.

ABOG on Thursday ended the ban on treating male patients entirely and said that certified ob-gyns must only devote the "majority" of their practice to obstetrics and gynecology, as opposed to 75%.

ABOG spokesperson David Margulies said the board had started considering the changes in November, after the New York Times published an article outlining physicians' concerns about patients at risk for anal cancer. He said the changes were not related to the threat of a lawsuit (Grady, New York Times, 1/30; Grady, New York Times, 11/26/13).

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