Washington Post (07.11.07) - Wednesday, July 11, 2007
At a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
hearing yesterday, Richard H. Carmona joined fellow former
surgeons general David Satcher and C. Everett Koop in calling
for less political interference and more independence for the
Carmona, who served under President Bush from 2002 to 2006,
said appointees in the administration removed politically
sensitive content from his speeches and routinely blocked him
from speaking out on public health matters such as abstinence-
only sex education, stem cell research, and the emergency
contraceptive Plan B.
Carmona testified that when the administration was urging
Congress to fund abstinence-only education, he was prevented
from discussing research on the effectiveness of a
comprehensive approach that includes promoting condoms as well
as abstinence. "There was already a policy in place that did
not want to hear the science but wanted to just preach
abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," he
told the panel.
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees'
ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored,
marginalized or simply buried," said Carmona. "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."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the panel's chairperson, urged
his colleagues to take steps to shield the office from
political influence: "We shouldn't allow the surgeon general
to be politicized. It is the doctor of the nation. That person
needs to have credibility, independence, and to speak about
"Public health is only effective when it is honest. When
public health leaders don't tell the truth, they lose
credibility, and in the long run, we all pay the price," said
David Michaels, director of the Project on Scientific
Knowledge and Public Policy at George Washington University's
School of Public Health.