New appointment to drug advisory body sparks controversyBMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d624 (Published 31 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d624
All rapid responses
The approach of 'harm reduction' is clearly popular among
professionals and this itself has generated a certain amount of evidence
for its effectiveness. Indeed prior to more recent studies it was
demonstrated by perhaps the greatest social experiment in this area, the
prohibition of sale of alcohol in the United States that legal
restrictions can cause as many problems as they solve.
However it is equally apparent both from the critics and the
defenders of Dr Raabe that political and philosophical views are also at
work here. Whether or not 'harm reduction' can be effective is not the
only factor. People are also, reasonably concerned about rewarding certain
pattens of behaviour or about being complicit in behaviour. If the state
supplies a drug which does harm it has a direct responsibility in the way
that is not true where people take drugs despite advice - just as
manufacturers have responsibility for the harm done by their products, but
only incidentally for the harm done because of products produces by
Friends of mine in Scotland sometimes complain to me that people with
a Southern English accent do not realise that they have an accent. They
claim to speak plain unaccented English! Similarly there are some people
who seem to believe that while other people operate from philosophical or
political motives they themselves are concerned purely by the 'evidence'.
This may be a useful rhetorical stategy, as it may be rhetorically useful
to mention one's opponent's religion, but it is naive to think that the
arbiters of evidence (on whichever side of the argument) are not subject
to their own philosophical and political motives.
In the meantime I look forward to the application of these principles
to tabacco and for a campaign for addicted smokers to receive free low tar
cigarettes and special rooms to smoke them in.
Competing interests: No competing interests
"New appointment of evangelical Christian to drug advisory body sparks controversy" Please spare us emotive headlines!
"New appointment of evangelical Christian to drug advisory body
sparks controversy" Please spare us emotive headlines!
The term "sparks controversy"  in Clare Dyer's headline (5
February, page 300) made me think (perhaps naively) that the article would
describe something like a miniature Cairo's Tahrir Liberation Square
problem that demanded some extraordinary intervention to prevent
catastrophe. Nothing of the sort, as it turned out.
ONE MAN PLUS ONE OTHER PERSON
It was just one man, Evan Harris, plus an "unnamed member of the
council" who were not at all happy about Theresa May, the Home Secretary,
approving the appointment of an "evangelical Christian" to the "UK
Advisory Council Drug's Council on the Misuse of Drugs" . Perhaps I
read too much into the headline, but I fail to see how the appointment of
one, yes I mean one, "evangelical Christian", to the Drugs Advisory
Council with its 9 new members must be required to meet with the approval
of Mr Harris. Cannot the other 8 new members over rule the "evangelical
Christian" whenever they think the latter is talking (tafracher) nonsense?
THE MERIT QUALIFICATION AND EVIDENCE-BASED VIEWS
Clare Dyer states that these appointments "were made under a code of
practice that requires all appointments to be made on merit" .Can it be
shown that Dr Hans-Christian Raabe is devoid of the merit that membership
of such an important Drugs Council will benefit from? The Council "prides
itself on basing all views on evidence"  Would Evan Harris cooperate
with me in designing an epidemiological research project among teenagers
in the UK and elsewhere to see what proportion of drug abusers were
evangelical Christians, and what proportion were not, compared with the
rest of the teenage population? Would the findings, significant to a 'p'
value of 0.0001, prove anything to him and his like-minded colleagues? If
a known chain smoker, as I once was, had been appointed to the Council by
Theresa May would Harris have displayed similar misgivings?
PROFESSOR DAVID NUTT's SACKING AND THE RESIGNATIONS
The British Medical Journal  conducted some research among its
readers asking who agreed or disagreed with the sacking of Professor David
Nutt by Mr Alan Johnson. As of 5th November 2009 443 respondents
castigated Mr Alan Johnson for dismissing his Chief Scientific Advisor,
while 83 (15.8%) agreed with his decision to sack him. Did Evan Harris
think all these 83 were "evangelical Christians"? In my response to the
discussion on that occasion I described two Fellows of the Royal Society
(both of them alive today) who wrote best sellers on Human Genetics .
They both used the description in the BMJ of a genetic defect of mine in
their text books, but while Professor Sir David Weatherall FRS emphasized
the ethical point I was making about my Mendellian Dominant defect ,
the other Fellow of the Royal Society did not even mention the word Ethics
once in his 347-page book, nor did he acknowledge the BMJ (and myself) as
the source of his information, which proves that that some brilliant
scientists forget that Science is not the only criterion required in
dealing with human situations. The Drugs Council may be packed with
brilliant evidence-based scientists some of whom may be Fellows of the
Royal Society, but I would not quarrel with Theresa May for including at
least one new person who is an evangelical Christian. If some members want
to resign because of this, let them. I trained in the UK, and I happen to
know that Great Britain is not short of geniuses who can happily step into
the shoes of "the departed". Theresa May probably thinks there is an
ethical dimension required in the advice given regarding addictive drugs
and teenagers. In my opinion Theresa May deserves commendation, not
Conflict of interest: I am a staunch believer in The LORD JESUS
Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu MD(Lond) FRCP DTMH
Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
and Consultant Physician Genetic Counsellor in Sickle & Other
Haemoglobinopathies, 10 Harley Street, London W1G 9PF
1 Dyer Clare. New appointment of evangelical Christian to drug
advisory body sparks controversy. BMJ 2011; 342: d624 (5 February, page
2 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Tafracher - Personal View. The invaluable
Ghanaian word for devulgarizing succeeding words or phrases. BMJ 1975;
1(5953): 329. (February 8) doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5953.329
3 Dyer Clare. Scientists want more protection after government
adviser is sacked. BMJ 2009; 339.doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4563 (November 4)
4 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Does rejecting a particular scientific
opinion mean a rejection of Science? BMJ Rapid Response 10 November 2009.
5 Weatherall DJ. Ethical issues and related problems arising from
the application of the new genetics to clinical practice. Chapter 12 in D
J Weatherall. The New Genetics and Clinical Medicine in Practice. Third
Edition. Oxford, Oxford University Press 1991, pages 346-368.
Competing interests: No competing interests
As director of a centre for evidence based policy, Evan Harris should
be well aware of the evidence that men who have sex with men do indeed
have a higher incidence of drug misuse (1)(2)(3). Indeed if they do not,
then surely Harris' criticism of Dr Raabe's alleged comments on
homosexuality is entirely irrelevant to Raabe's position on the Misuse of
Drugs Advisory Council?
As for Mark Easton's reported comments from an unnamed member of the
Council threatening to resign over Dr Raabe's appointment, these say so
much about that member's cowardice and lack of transparency that it may be
best if they do resign. At least Dr Raabe has the courage to express his
1. Stall R, Wiley J. A comparison of alcohol and drug use patterns of
homosexual and heterosexual men: the San Francisco men's health study .
Drug Alcohol Dependency. 1988;22:63-73.
2. Stall R, Paul JP, Greenwood G, et al. Alcohol use, drug use and
alcohol-related problems among men who have sex with men: the Urban Men's
3. McCabe S et al Sexual identity and substance misuse among
undergraduate students Substance Abuse 2003 24 77-91
Competing interests: I am also a Christian and former GP