Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A Very Bad Idea!

Ideas on WHO Delegates at Odds (

"WHO has agreed to send invitations to specific scientists through the U.S. government, rather than to contact the experts directly. This arrangement, largely a matter of protocol, is one the organization has with China, Russia and a few other of its 192 member countries.

"HHS officials, however, believe WHO has acceded to its request that the U.S. government be allowed to 'identify an appropriate expert who can best serve both of our organizations' after WHO provides a general description of the expertise it is seeking."

It is hard enough for WHO to put together a good expert committee without HHS getting in the way! Getting a group together that knows the current scientific and clinical literature, and the health conditions in the countries that need help from WHO is hard. WHO deals with real issues -- the best treatment for malaria, how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, how to deal with malnutrition, diahrreal disease and respiratory disease. Failure in the quality of advice given by such committees is measured in death and disability. Scientists and doctors generally see an ethical responsibility to participate in these meetings giving their best advice, independent of the political stance of their governments.

The article goes on to say that HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's special assistant for international affairs, William R. "Steiger also noted that federal employees 'do not and cannot' participate as individuals but 'serve as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advocate U.S. government policies.'" If so, I hope they will no longer be invited to serve on committees of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, nor the National Academy of Engineering. The Academies expect people they appoint to give their individual best professional judgment, not the positions of their employers.

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