A 72-year-old Toronto psychiatrist who has gained notoriety for his attempts at "curing" homosexuality has been found guilty of sexually abusing two of his male patients. According to the complaint filed against Dr. Melvin Iscove, he was accused of mutual masturbation and oral sex with two male patients in his office as well as anal intercourse with one of them on another occasion. The patients themselves were led to believe that the sexual activity was part of their treatment aimed at "curing" them of their same-sex urges.
While the disease model of homosexuality has long since been discredited, Dr. Iscove is an adherent of the theories of Dr. Edmund Bergler, a psychoanalyst whose work on reparative therapy was popular in the 1950s. Even though the province of Ontario has banned the use of reparative therapy, Dr. Iscove's practice has focused on the treatment of a wide range of sexual problems including marital conflict, hypersexuality, and homosexuality.
During his disciplinary hearing, Iscove downplayed the significance of many of Bergler's writings (including statements such as "there are no happy homosexuals" which he gave his patients as homework assignments. Though Iscove insisted that he attempted to "soften" the impact of these articles, he was evasive on whether he believed homosexuality could be changed through therapy. “Dr. Iscove also became evasive in responding to questions as to whether homosexuality should be considered an illness, and whether it was capable of being ‘cured,’ despite that these views were clearly held by Dr. Bergler.” the panel wrote as part of its summation of the hearing. “Given that Dr. Iscove had admittedly devoted his professional life to studying and applying the theories of Dr. Bergler, it was not clear to the committee why Dr. Iscove refused to acknowledge that he agreed with Dr. Bergler on these points.”
As for this sexual encounters with his clients, testimony head by the panel left little to the imagination. Now in their 40s, both clients, whose identities are covered by a publication ban and who the panel noted didn’t know each other until the discipline proceedings — came forward in recent years, about incidents that took place when they were younger. Based on their testimony The committee found that he not only engaged in mutual masturbation and oral sex with two male patients on different occasions during therapy sessions but he also had anal intercourse with one of them in his office. “Neither complainant described any emotional or romantic aspects of the sexual activity with Dr. Iscove, and both said that at some point, they thought that the sexual activity was part of the therapy and an attempt to cure them of homosexuality by engaging in the acts, rather than fantasizing about them,” that panel reported in their written summation.
In their response to the decision, and being stripped of his license to practice medicine, Iscove and his lawyers continue to deny the allegations which date back over twenty years and they are reportedly planning an appeal. Iscove is also facing a second discipline hearing over allegations of "“improper conduct in a public men’s washroom"