Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Profiles in Courage - a day late and a dollar short

I was not enthused about the nomination of Richard Carmona as Surgeon General, and I got a whole lot less enthusiastic when, having obtained Senate confirmation, he disappeared from the planet. I thought he must have been a victim of spontaneous human combustion, but then I actually saw a person who purported to be him giving a speech at the International Conference on Urban Health. It was really hard hitting stuff, all about how he was encouraging his staff to engage in physical activity for at least 1/2 hour each day.

So now he tells us that the reason he spent four years not doing his job is because the White House political commisars wouldn't let him. My outrage module was burned out long ago, but some of this stuff is worth noting just for the ludicrosity value.

Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name. “I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it. . .

On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones.

“I was told to stay away from those because we’ve already decided which way we want to go,” Dr. Carmona said.

He described attending a meeting of top officials in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and dismissed it, he said. . . .

When stem cells became a focus of debate, Dr. Carmona said he proposed that his office offer guidance “so that we can have, if you will, informed consent.”

“I was told to stand down and not speak about it,” he said. “It was removed from my speeches.” . . .

Similarly, Dr. Carmona wanted to address the controversial topic of sexual education, he said. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives.

“However there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect,” he said.

Dr. Carmona said drafts of surgeon general reports on global health and prison health were still being debated by the administration. The global health report was never approved, Dr. Carmona said, because he refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration.

“The correctional health care report is pointing out the inadequacies of health care within our correctional health care system,” he said. “It would force the government on a course of action to improve that.”

Because the administration does not want to spend more money on prisoners’ health care, the report has been delayed, Dr. Carmona said.

Hey doc, thanks for telling us all about it -- after spending four years not doing your fucking job, and not letting out one itsy bitsy, teeny weeny little peep about it to anyone, until after you've already been fired anyway, after the 2004 and 2006 elections, after God knows how many teenagers have contracted HIV or gotten pregnant because of abstinence-only sex education, after we've wasted your entire tenure not taking action on climate change, or prisoners' health care, or stem cell research, and people have, you know, like died because of it. Aren't medical doctors supposed to have responsibilities to human life and health? Not if their cushy job is more important to them, I guess.

I believe there is a special circle of hell reserved for such people. He can spend eternity with Colin Powell.

Update: The new nominee for Surgeon General, James Holsinger, tells the Senate Health Committee in his confirmation hearing that he would resign rather than submit to political censorship of scientific truth. (Holsinger has other problems, though he now claims the sodomites are okay by him after all.) It seems pretty obvious to me that would be a fundamental responsibility for anyone who accepts the job of Surgeon General, but evidently Carmona had a different view.

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