[February 01, 2014](Reuters) — A U.S. professional
group that certifies obstetricians and gynecologists has loosened a
decades-old restriction on its board-certified members treating male
patients, after mounting pressure from doctors and researchers.
The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) had
previously said members could not treat male patients except in
specific circumstances, such as circumcising babies, treating
transgendered patients, and helping couples overcome infertility.
However, opposition had mounted from gynecologists and others who
said the policy interfered with medical research and prevented them
treating male patients with chronic pelvic pain.
Some obstetricians and gynecologists had also been treating men for
cancer, problems such as low testosterone, and cosmetic procedures
"This change recognizes that in a few rare instances board certified
diplomats were being called upon to treat men for certain conditions
and to participate in research," Dr. Larry Gilstrap, ABOG's
executive director, said in a statement Thursday.
"This issue became a distraction from our mission to ensure that
women receive high quality and safe health care."
The Dallas-based board eliminated requirements that said certified
members treat only women and must devote at least 75 percent of
their practice to obstetrics and gynecology, saying instead a
majority would suffice.
The policy change matters because board certification, while not
legally mandated, is viewed as a paragon of safety by many
hospitals, patients, and insurers.
It was intended to protect patients when some gynecologists who were
board-certified by the group were practicing in areas outside the
board's expertise, such as plastic surgery, ABOG spokesman David
First adopted in the 1930s, the policy had been ignored or opposed
by doctors in some corners over the years, and the board had built a
list of complicated exceptions over the past months, Margulies said.
"The whole thing became a distraction from the idea that we are here
to certify people, to make sure that they have the training they
need," Margulies said.
ABOG says on its website it is an independent, non-profit
organization that certifies obstetricians and gynecologists in the
It examines and certifies more than 1,700 obstetricians and
gynecologists and sub-specialists in maternal-fetal medicine,
reproductive endocrinology and infertility, gynecologic oncology and
female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery each year.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle;
editing by Sophie Hares)