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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed

Published December 20, 2010 2:32 PM by Glen McDaniel

In a lame duck session, by a vote of 65 to 31, the US Senate voted to repeal  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)" a 17-year -old law that prevented gays from serving openly in the military.  The bill now awaits the President's signature.

For some, DADT is simply a bureaucratic issue of military procedure, but for many others it is a human rights issue, a basic right denied. An estimated 13, 500 service members including laboratorians have been discharged under the 1993 law.

Once this measure has been "certified" and subjected to a mandatory 60 day grace period-but no later than the first quarter of 2011- the repeal will be final and fully in effect. What are the implications for the clinical laboratorians serving in the armed forces? Firstly, nothing changes until the end of the 60-day period. But then gay men and women will be able to serve without fear of being discharged for their sexual orientation.

The armed forces will no longer reject applications or discharge well qualified service members for being gay.  This policy of "reject and discharge" has been the practice in some highly skilled areas of high demand like linguistics/translation and it is reasonable to surmise a similar situation exists in the area of clinical lab science.

In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Kenneth Katz, a San Diego physician reported on some health care implications of DADT.

 He found that gay patients in the service, or those entering the service, were less likely to get treated for sexually transmitted diseases or to disclose their medical condition. Some would start treatment with a civilian doctor, enter service and not complete treatment. Many feared that disclosing details of their illness would somehow indicate their sexual orientation. He theorized that DADT has put patients as well as the armed forces at risk.

Dr Katz believes repeal of DADT  will encourage more treatment  of STDs; as well as reduce complications, debilitation and transmission among active duty personnel. Clinical laboratorians in the service might well see an increase in STD testing in military facilities as well.

I am interested in getting readers' perspectives on the repeal of DADT; but  I especially want to hear from past and current service members.

3 comments

I think anything that encourages people to get medical care will increase testing. More medical care=more lab tests. Besides it's to the best that everyone seeks medical care when needed. It is so horrible that prejudice should force folks into not getting care, not getting diagnosed or not getting treated.

Also young people who want to serve their country will step up and serve without fear of discrimination. This is a volunteer military and we need all the talented folks we can get.

Jonathan Mt (AMT) December 30, 2010 9:49 PM
Dothan AL

I see the President signed the bill this morning. I am not in the military but I know that guys who want to get in will have drug test and STD test done by a private lab or private doctor just to make sure before they enlist. They dont want to  go to the recruiter, go through all the paper work and be busted at that time.

It is awful that the doctor's study found people would rather harm their own body than be found out as gay. That's sad.  

The military labs might have more tests performed, their doctors and medics will be busier because there are non-STD things that might hint that someone is gay too. I bet those peple dont currently go to the doctor either. All around it will be better for everybody, I think.

Mark MT December 22, 2010 1:32 PM
Brooklyn NY

I am an MT. My son was so influenced by my work after hearing me talk about it all the while he was growing up that he'd come to work with me when I worked the night shift. He could not do tests of course but he would help with paperwork filing etc with the approval of my boss. In his last year of high school he even got a job with my lab for 16 hours/week where he could log specimens, store specimens, load automated instruments etc.

He did not get very good grades but he is a good young man and decided to serve his country. He has been in the service for 4 years now. He is a MLT and has been deployed.  He has feared every day of his life overseas he would be discharged if he just said the wrong thing or looked at someone wrong. He has served his country bravely and deserves better. I am glad for him and others like him. But as you say I told him on the phone to just be quiet until this thing is final.

I am sorry, but I am not identifying myself because my friends might be able to identify me if I give more information. Thank you for this article.

Rosalie December 20, 2010 10:48 PM

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