The Federation of American Scientists is profoundly disturbed by the testimony of former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona at the July 10th hearing of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. At the hearing, Surgeon General Carmona described a dismaying number of cases where he was forced to weaken or suppress reports providing public health information that should have been available to the public. He also reported that he was repeatedly instructed not to speak on a wide array of important health issues including stem cells, emergency contraception, and mental health.
While political pressure on government scientists is not new, the size and scope of the effort reported by Dr. Carmona are shocking. This is the first time an official of this rank has described in detail a persistent, long-term pattern of distorting science advice to the public. As America’s “chief health educator,” the Surgeon General’s office has a clear obligation to provide the public with timely, accurate, and accessible information about matters of health and medicine. The public needs this information to provide good care for themselves and their families and they need it to make informed decisions about health care policy. The public should never have to wonder whether statements made by high public officials can be trusted to be accurate and complete.
Dr. James Holsinger, nominated to be the next Surgeon General, will face Senate confirmation this week. FAS urges the Senators examining him to get assurances that he will always provide the public with the most complete, timely, and accurate health care information available to him. And we urge them to get assurances that he will bring important health care matters to public attention without regard to the effect these facts will have on partisan political debates.
Read Surgeon General Carmona’s testimony here.