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Former surgeon general says he was muzzled
Claims Bush administration kept him from speaking on controversial issues
Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona - a Bush administration appointee - went public during Congressional testimory on July 10 with exposure of how science, science policy and scientific thinking is being attacked across the board from the highest levels of government
His testimony revealed that his role as the "nation's doctor" was undermined and compromised. As Carmona stated: "Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried".
SideBar --read about
An Earlier Abuse of Science and Women's Health...Susan Wood and the FDA...
Here is a link to a video of part of Carmona's testimony (as he is questioned by Henry Waxman):
Surgeon General Richard Carmona testifies to Congress
And here is one representative media account of his testimony from the LA Times
Ex-surgeon general says Bush officials kept information from public
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Times Staff Writer
12:28 PM PDT, July 10, 2007
WASHINGTON -- President Bush's first surgeon general charged today that administration officials prevented him from providing the public with accurate scientific and medical information on such issues as stem cell research and teen pregnancy.
"The reality is that the 'nation's doctor' has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," Dr. Richard H. Carmona told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried.
"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," said Carmona, who served from 2002 to 2006. "The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation - not the doctor of a political party."
Carmona testified alongside former Surgeons General C. Everett Koop and David Satcher, who served in the Reagan and Clinton administrations, respectively. They also told the committee that they faced political interference, particularly on morally charged issues such as sexuality and drug use.
But Carmona said some fellow surgeons general told him interference rose to new levels during his tenure.
"The surgeon general has to be independent if the surgeon general is going to have any credibility," said committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles). The panel is considering reforms that would insulate the surgeon general from political crosscurrents.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration gave Carmona all the support he needed and expressed disappointment in his tenure.
"Dr. Carmona was given the authority and had the obligation to be the leading voice for the health of all Americans," Fratto said. "It's disappointing to us if he failed to use his position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation. We believe Dr. Carmona received the support necessary to carry out his mission."
Carmona served a four-year term and was not reappointed.
The House hearing comes two days before a Senate panel is to meet to consider the nomination of Kentucky cardiologist James W. Holsinger Jr. to succeed Carmona.
Holsinger has already drawn political fire from leading Democrats and major gay and lesbian organizations. As a prominent lay member of the United Methodist Church, Holsinger has strongly opposed liberalizing church policies toward gays.
Surgeons general are viewed as public health advocates who serve, in essence, as the nation's family doctor. Previous surgeons general have played pivotal roles in debates about smoking, drunk driving, mental health and disparities in medical treatment between whites and minorities.
Carmona said he expected that would be his role when he came to Washington but that that was "politically naive."
When the issue of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research came up early in Bush's first term, Carmona said, he felt he could play an educational role for administration officials and the public by openly discussing the latest scientific research on the subject.
Stem cells can be grown into any type of cell in the body, and some scientists see in them the promise of a cure for Parkinson's and other diseases. But producing embryonic stem cells has involved the destruction of human embryos - raising moral issues that some, including many religious conservatives, find profoundly disturbing.
In 2001, Bush limited federal funding for stem cell research and has since blocked attempts by Congress to lift the restriction.
Carmona said he was told to "stand down" from playing any educational role because a decision had already been made. He also said administration appointees who reviewed his prepared speech texts deleted from them references to stem cell research.
Likewise, on the issue of preventing teen pregnancy, Carmona said he was not allowed to deviate from the administration's position that abstinence was the best approach.
In fact, he said, he believes a variety of approaches are needed, including contraception for sexually active teens. But the administration "did not want to hear the science," he said, and instead "wanted to preach."
In August 2005, Susan Wood, then Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and Director, Office of Women’s Health at the Food and Drug Administration faced similar governmental trampling of science by right wing ideological agendas and resigned in protest. As Wood's press release at the time stated:
"Wood’s resignation comes after the FDA ignored scientific and medical evidence – again refusing to approve Plan B for over-the-counter use last week. Despite saying that it completed its review of this application, as amended, and concluding that the available scientific data are sufficient to support the safe use of Plan B as an over-the-counter product, the FDA said it would begin another regulatory process, thereby delaying the decision indefinitely."
Ultimately the uproar and protest in the wake of her resignation led to the approval for limited over-the-counter access to Plan B, but only a full year later - August, 2006.
read Susan Wood's letter of resignation...
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