The American Medical Association has urged a greater understanding by doctors of their homosexual and bisexual patients, saying that health care is enhanced by "the physician's nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation and behavior."

In a report adopted this month, the AMA also dropped a 13-year-old policy of encouraging programs to acquaint gay and lesbian patients with "the possibility of sex preference reversal in selected cases."The new policy was called an "admirable" and "significant" change by Benjamin Schatz, executive director of the 1,600-member Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

But it was criticized as a "political maneuver" by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, secretary-treasurer of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, whose 380 members treat those who seek to change their sexual behavior.

Dr. M. Roy Schwarz, group vice president of the medical association and chairman of its task force on AIDS, said the the intent of the report was not to comment on sexual orientation but to raise doctors' awareness.

He said the report was adopted without any negative comments during a meeting in Honolulu of the house of delegates, which is the AMA's policy-making body.

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"People at these meetings don't hesitate to say what's on their minds," Schwarz said. "The fact that it went through with minimal changes - and nobody argued - I think represents an evolution in the understanding of physicians about this subpopulation."

Schatz said the AMA, under its new policy, was "placing the burden of caring on all physicians."

That is precisely one of the objections raised by Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist in Encino, Calif., and a founder of the homosexual therapy association.

"You're politically imposing a treatment modality that may go against the individual physician's medical opinion," Nicolosi said.

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