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The Surgeon General-Designate’s Anatomy Lesson

On May 24, President Bush nominated   Dr. James Holsinger be U.S. surgeon general, “America’s chief health educator.” A cardiologist and former chief medical director for the Veterans Health Administration who subsequently ran Kentucky’s Department of Health and Family Services, Dr. Holsinger has for many years been an active member of the United Methodist Church. Holsinger’s nomination has come under heavy criticism because of a 1991 report he authored for the church’s committee on homosexuality (see below and on the following five pages), which was made available last week by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. The report, which maintains that there is no biological cause for homosexuality, has been cited by opponents of the nomination to demonstrate that Holsinger is homophobic and by supporters to demonstrate that criticism of the report is part of the “pro-homosexual lobby’s smear campaign.”

Among the report’s findings are that the human reproductive and alimentary system are “absolutely separate” (a proposition subsequently disputed approximately nine times in or near the private study off the Oval Office); that the rectum is inhospitable to inserted “objects that are large, sharp or pointed” (Page 2); and that “anorectal trauma follows fist fornication” (Page 4). A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services has defended the paper as a “reflection of the available scientific data from the 1980s,” but others have criticized Holsinger’s use of bibliographic material as highly selective. Holsinger has not commented on the report.

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