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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Ex-Surgeon General Says White House Hushed Him
Christopher Lee
July 11, 2007
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 office.

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 science." "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.