Leff: Dr. Raabe, drugs "specialist" recently appointed to the ACMD.
Right: Evan Harris, Lib-Dem Politician, Secular Humanist
and generally awesome guy.
Evan Harris has a rather awesome article about the decision to appoint Dr. Raabe to the "Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs". This is the council from which Dr. Nutt was rejected because he noted that scientific research was at odds with government policy. At the point where Dr. Nutt was removed from his position, we still had a Labour government. Seemingly not to be out-played the Coalition government (Tory majority) have chosen a candidate with little in the way of expertise on this topic, but with plenty of juicy homophobic Christian fundamentalism. It seems likely that the main reason he has been chosen is because he thinks marijuana is just bad bad bad and why factor something as trivial as objectivity when appointing "specialists" for an advisory board, eh?
Evan Harris' article is as follows:
(Source)Last week the Home Office appointed a Manchester GP, Dr Hans-Christian Raabe to serve on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
What is happening to our expert advisory committees?
There is a real risk that expertise will be replaced by advocates, and peer review by opinion, says Dr Evan Harris
Until last month Dr Margaret Birtwistle was the GP member of the ACMD. Dr Birtwistle is a GP Consultant to Surrey Drug Action Team as well as senior tutor at St George's Hospital, a forensic medicine examiner and a trainer. And until relatively recently, Dr Clare Gerada was also on the ACMD. She was primary care lead for drug misuse policy for, and is now president of, the Royal College of GPs
So, who is this new GP appointee to the ACMD?
Dr Raabe's two-doctor Manchester surgery does not advertise any specialist drug clinics on its website. Other than a single article in German in 1994 on "Dietary intervention in hyperlipidemia. Experience in general practice" he does not appear to have published any peer reviewed research, let alone into drug addiction or treatment.
Given that the expert membership of the ACMD is known by the Home Office to be a sensitive issue as I have written before, it might appear that the Home Office was simply not able to recruit attract any specialist GPs and thus appointed an ordinary inner city GP.
But Dr Raabe is not just a GP. He is a leading member of the Maranatha Community – a Manchester-based fundamentalist (in the literal, non-pejorative sense) evangelical Christian group.
He heads up, with Dr Linda Stalley, the Council for Health and Wholeness (CHW), a "medical" sub-group of the Maranatha Community. Both the Maranatha Community and the CHW have strong views on drugs and homosexuality and regularly send briefing materials to MPs and policy-makers.
What sort of views does Dr Raabe publish on public policy matters?
One such missive I remember receiving is a 2008 briefing paper on sex and relationships education which included this passage (appendix 10).
10.6 Homosexual lifestyle reduces life expectancy by many years
In a Vancouver study, published in 1997, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men was found to be 8 to 20 years less than for all men aged 20. The reduction in life expectancy would be similar to the life expectancy of men in Canada in 1871. The main reasons for this reduction was AIDS. The average life expectancy for a 20 year old homosexual or bisexual man was calculated to be between only 34 to 46 years. (Hogg RS et al. Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men. International Journal of Epidemiology.1997; 26: 657-61.)
The paper fails to comment on the relevance (or lack of it) of that to the policy of teaching about safer sex to British teenagers.
The paper also states, in a throwback to the arguments used in favour of outlawing the "promotion of homosexuality" (section 28),
"The media and the gay movement portray the homosexual lifestyle as happy, healthy and fulfilled. However, the homosexual lifestyle is associated with a large number of very serious physical and emotional health consequences."
"A high proportion of homosexual men engage in a destructive lifestyle, for example contracting HIV/Aids or other STIs, and develop addictions to drugs or alcohol. There is a higher burden of depression, [and] attempted or completed suicide among the 'gay population'."
Perhaps as a means to saving young people from drug and alcohol addiction, the ACMD may come under pressure to recommend the sort of Christian gay conversion courses propounded by Dr Raabe's CHW co-director, Dr Linda Stalley?
"The second lie which is propagated by the pro-homosexual lobby is that homosexuality is a fixed condition which cannot be changed. Within even Christian circles there has been anger at the suggestion that there is need for healing. It is widely acknowledged that human beings have the capacity to change for good and this occurs aside from a Christian conversion experience as well as being a result of it. It is well documented that people who were formerly engaged in a homosexual lifestyle have changed and taken up a stable heterosexual relationship. "
Where angels fear to tread
Dr Raabe and his organisation show a great willingness to subvert statistics to the most dubious and controversial of arguments in their wish to justify a biblical condemnation of homosexuality, in a way that no other mainstream evangelical Christian organisation has done for nearly a decade.
Dr Raabe co-authored a paper that claimed:
"While the majority of homosexuals are not involved in paedophilia, it is of grave concern that there is a disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles and an overlap between the gay movement and the movement to make paedophilia acceptable."
That article is on the website of a North American Catholic institution which makes no, equally vacuous, link between priesthood and paedophilia!
Dr Linda Stalley's paper states
"… there must be serious questions asked about the legitimacy of artificial insemination by donor and surrogacy as a means for homosexuals to have their own children. It should be born in mind that between 20 and 40% of cases of paedophilia are committed by homosexuals."
There is indeed a Maranatha document written for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality which devotes a whole chapter stressing the links between homosexuality and pedophilia. It starts (where else?) in ancient Greece.
6. Homosexuality and pedophilia
6.1. Any discussion of the issue of homosexuality and its therapy should be aware of the link between homosexuality and pedophilia. One well known historic example on the link between homosexuality and pedophilia is found in ancient Greece.
A man with a mission to toughen our drug laws and change treatment approaches?
Dr Raabe becomes the only member of the ACMD with a declarable party political interest in that he has been a candidate for the Christian Party in the European elections.
The ACMD deals with how prevent to people from becoming addicted to drugs, from using dangerous drugs and how to help those who are.
BBC Home affairs editor Mark Easton in his blog cites examples of Dr Raabe's extreme hostility to harm reduction which a fundamental part of the way this countries health care and education professionals seek to safeguard the welfare of young people and drug users. These are not mainstream scientific views; in fact they are "way out".
In an anti-drugs document he is listed as " Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, GP Manchester. Long-time Campaigner against Cannabis ".
While there may well be some experts on the ACMD who support liberalisation of Britain's drug laws and perhaps even legalisation of some drugs, the police members of the ACMD may well support greater prohibition. But I doubt if the Home Office – if it has ever had a liberal phase - has ever appointed anyone to the ACMD with the sole specialist qualification of being a long-term campaigner for drug legalisation.
Should homophobic views and religious fundamentalism be a barrier to public appointment?
Given his views, it is therefore natural that Dr Raabe's appointment has attracted a great deal of criticism. It is also not a surprise that in response to those protests religious commentators like Melanie Phillips in her usual understated way have said "Penalising religious people for speaking and acting in accordance with their beliefs is neither liberal nor tolerant. It is behaviour more commonly associated with totalitarian dictatorships".
Joining her is Christian Concern – in their latest example ("It is a shame that, as once again demonstrated, some believe that if you are a Christian then you should not be allowed a voice in the public sphere") of what one liberal Christian group has called "shameful" claimed false-victimhood.
Dr Raabe himself has said that society was in danger of believing that "if you are a Christian you are not fit for public office or you are biased or a bigot".
In my opinion, the problem with his views, in respect of his appointment, is not that they are homophobic. After all, homophobia can not be a bar to serving on expert advisory committees nor to participation in public debates. Nor is it that they are religious views. There are plenty of religious people stacking advisory groups and engaging in policy discussions. I have previously argued that there can be no bar on religious politicians (like Opus Dei's Ruth Kelly) holding any specific office (like Equality Minister) as long as there is transparency about the basis upon which policy is made.
The problem is that the ACMD is an expert committee where even those members with political (ie policy) views have them framed in the context of their experience in the field, or their scholarship, not merely their opinions.
A key question, therefore, is whether, when he was appointed, the Home Office was aware of Dr Raabe's lack of expertise, of his approach to evidence, his role in the Maranatha Community and the CHW, and his views on harm reduction. There is a Code of Practice covering appointments such as these and it seems that Dr Raabe has interests which would not necessarily bar him from appointment but which are relevant to his appointment.
It would also be interesting know how many GPs or other medics applied to join the ACMD.
A history of policy "activism"
In a 2006 submission to the Science and Technology Committee (of which I was a member) during its enquiry into Drug Classification, the CHW has itself accused the ACMD of being infiltrated with pro-liberalisation experts. This suggests that Dr Raabe has applied to join the ACMD with a conscious agenda of changing the policy stance of the Council.
Ironically, given his allegations of infiltration, Dr Raabe was one of a large number of Christian doctors who submitted written evidence to the same select committee a year later during its enquiry into the scientific and health aspects of abortion while concealing that they were all christian anti-abortion activistsand when pressed gave only a rather limited declaration of interests which did not mention his co-directorship of the CHW.
This was even more surprising since the Council for Health and Wholeness also submitted evidence to the enquiry as did the Maranatha Community. None of three submissions mentioned their relationship to one another or that they were probably written by the same person. In fact Appendix 6 of the CHW submission to the Government's Sex and Relationships Education Consultation a year later was a "cut and paste" version of Dr Raabe's Selpect Committee submission.
None of those submissions were not a model of good practice when it came to citing properly peer reviewed academic journals as set out on the Ministry of Truth Blog and Dr Raabe had a penchant for citing papers by pretty unqualified "Doctors".
The credibility of the ACMD
Professor David Nutt, the former Chair of the ACMD who was harassed by Jackie Smith and sacked by Alan Johnson for expressing his views on the evidence around drug classification, and who now heads the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, has again stressed his concerns about the future of the ACMD. He has commented that "The appointment of Dr Raabe confirms in my mind that the ACMD cannot be considered to be a body that has science at the heart of its decision-making."
Perhaps elements within the Government are trying to destroy the ACMD from within?
Andy Lewis of the Quackometer blog identifies a number of Government expert committees being populated by non-experts. I agree with him when he says
"When David Nutt was sacked for expressing views on relative harm, we were angry that government was ignoring the advice of its advisors. Now we find ourselves hoping they do.