Monday, July 09, 2007

"A veneer of science"

With the full awareness that I hereby open myself up to another rash of comments-to-delete from the folks who keep sending me the same "scientific studies" on the relative death rates for homosexuals and heterosexuals I nevertheless point you to this lead NYTimes Editorial focused on YET ANOTHER WHACKO APPOINTEE by this you've-got-to-be-kidding-administration.

Dr. Holsinger has the absolute right to believe whatever he wants about what is or is not compatible with Christian teaching. He does not have the right to inflict those views on our national health policies as surgeon general cloaked, as the editorial rightly calls it, "in a veneer of science."

A Nominee’s Abnormal Views

The Senate Health Committee will have to dig beneath the surface on Thursday to consider the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be surgeon general. Dr. Holsinger has high-level experience as a health administrator, but there are disturbing indications that he is prejudiced against homosexuals.

Though routinely called “the nation’s top doctor,” the surgeon general is a midlevel official who oversees the 6,000 uniformed professionals in the Public Health Service. His main mission is to serve as “America’s chief health educator,” with potentially enormous capacity to shape public opinion.

Dr. Holsinger served for 26 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he rose to be chief medical director and under secretary for health. After retiring, he became chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center and, briefly, secretary for health and family services in Kentucky.

Although he is a Christian conservative, he is difficult to pigeonhole ideologically. He testified against an anti-cloning bill in Kentucky that he felt would impede research, a position at odds with that of the president. He backed a session on lesbian health issues at a state health conference despite protests from angry legislators, favored raising cigarette taxes in a tobacco-growing state and worked to limit junk food in schools.

What’s troubling is the view he once expressed — and may still hold — on homosexuality, through his activities as a lay leader in the United Methodist Church. On the church’s judicial council, he supported a minister who refused to allow a gay man to join his congregation and argued that a lesbian minister should be removed because church doctrine deems the practice of homosexuality to be “incompatible with Christian teaching.” His supporters say these rulings should not be read as his personal views because the council can’t change church doctrine.

However, some council members opposed his views, and the bishops later rejected one decision.
His strongest statement on homosexuality can be found in a murky, loosely reasoned paper that he wrote for a church committee in 1991. Titled “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,” the paper purported to be a scientific and medical review. It argued that gay sex was abnormal on anatomical and physiological grounds and unhealthy, in that anal sex can lead to rectal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Holsinger did not brand the large number of heterosexual women who engage in anal sex as abnormal, failed to acknowledge the huge burden of disease spread heterosexually and implied that women are more likely than men to avoid injuries with generous lubrication.

The Bush administration says the white paper reflected the scientific understanding of the time, but it reads like a veneer of science cloaking an aversion to homosexuality. The committee should examine whether Dr. Holsinger cherry-picked the literature or represented it objectively. Most important, it must determine whether Dr. Holsinger holds these benighted views today. The Senate should not confirm a surgeon general who considers practicing homosexuals abnormal and diseased.


RonF said...

Seems to me that you want this doctor banned for a thought crime. He has a public record, and it shows that his views on homosexuality do not affect his actions with regards to public health.

JimB said...


Did you read the piece? What it said was that the Senate should investigate and understand the doctor's intent and current views.

When one hires a doctor, what he thinks is certainly relevant. Otherwise there would be no reason for "advice and consent."


Anonymous said...

The reparative therapy folks are pretty flaky - it would be nice to know if the nominee is actually supporting this at his church plant, or if he is just handing out the old line, try to be celibate (a choice, not a quack therapy).

I'd rather have a Koop who separates medical opinion from religious opinion, and speaks his mind, than some dittohead who allows ideology to get in the way of data. Which is he?


Anonymous said...

I'm very concerned by the testimony of the last Surgeon General that forbade him to mention medical facts contradictory to political views, and also insisted he mention president bush three times per page of his speeches.

So no, I do not trust the loon they have nominated. There is no evidence that he is the dispassionate medical professional the position requires.\\

Max Rainey said...

Hmmm... I seem to remember a certain previously-unheard-of disease cropping up in the 80s, which affected Africans and Haitians and, in the U.S., at first, mostly gay men... and the information about prevention given to the public by the Surgeon General's office during that President's administration consisted of advice about going on family picnics.

The edict from the Oval Office was that the word "AIDS" would not, under any circumstances, appear in any printed material issuing from any office connected to the Executive Branch.

My cousin came out in 1982, at the ripe old age of 24. None of us knew how AIDS was transmitted. Lots of rumor and urban legend and speculation in the media, no where to get any actual information.

Neal died 12 years ago. He'd been diagnosed with AIDS about 6 years before that, and he told me he had no doubts about when he was infected with HIV. It was during those first 2 years he was out.

So yeah, I think it matters. It matters whether our public officials think of some citizens as less than human. It matters, not just to the marginalized, but to the rest of the public as well, because I don't know a single person, regardless of politics or sexuality or religious bent, who has not lost someone to AIDS, this disease about which the CDC had information that the government decided would not be released to the public because, after all, it was just a bunch of homosexuals and poor immigrants dying, and it served them right for being gay or poor.

It matters, I think.
It matters a great deal.

yours in the struggle,

Anonymous said...

I love seeing Holsinger called a loon and other things on this site. And all by people no doubt who have doctorates in medicine, anatomy, and physiology as he has. I thought for a minute that ideology might be at work here.

MarkBrunson said...

I'm not an astronomer, either, but I know a star from a match, when I see it.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I read the post. It closes:

"Most important, it must determine whether Dr. Holsinger holds these benighted views today. The Senate should not confirm a surgeon general who considers practicing homosexuals abnormal and diseased."

This says that the Senate should make a decision based on the nominee's views. It makes no mention of examining whether his actions in matters of public health have been different from those generally considered to be in the public interest based on those views. He is to be denied confirmation based on his views - based on whether he has committed a thought crime. Not on his actions.