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Former Surgeon General Reveals Political Interference in Medical Decisions

Richard Carmona, the first surgeon general appointed by President George Bush, testified yesterday that the Bush administration interfered with and censored his speeches on health issues, including stem cell research and sex education, in order to fit a political agenda. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a House committee, “Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” according to Reuters. “The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.”

During his time as surgeon general, Carmona oversaw a breakthrough report on the dangers of secondhand smoke. Even this, he said, was delayed for political reasons, the Los Angeles Times reports. Information on mental health, emergency preparedness, and global health was also subjected to political interference. When Carmona offered information on stem cell research, he said that he was “blocked at every turn” and told to “‘stand down, don’t talk about it,'” the Washington Post reports. His opinions on emergency contraception and disagreement with the administration’s promotion of abstinence-only education were also blocked.

Carmona’s testimony came just two days before a Senate committee plans to hold hearings on Bush’s new nomination for surgeon general. The nomination of Dr. James Holsinger, who has written that homosexual activity puts people at risk for injury and disease and that lesbians and gay men can be “cured,” had drawn sharp criticism and opposition from many public health and advocacy groups, including the Feminist Majority.

Sources:

Reuters 7/10/07; LA Times 7/11/07; Washington Post 7/10/07