Underqualified Nominee Installed on FDA Reproductive Health Advisory Committee

NOTE: The following is one of a series of case studies produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program between 2004 and 2010 to document the abuses highlighted in our 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.

When the George W. Bush administration initially suggested that Dr. W. David Hager become chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Reproductive Health Advisory Committee, which advises the agency on contraceptives, abortion, and other potentially controversial medical issues such as hormone replacement therapy, a widespread public outcry occurred. As a result of the outcry, Hager was simply installed as a member of the committee.

The nomination of Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist with scant credentials and highly partisan political views,1 represents a dramatic departure from any past appointments to this committee. 

Hager is best known for co-authoring a book that recommends particular scripture readings as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome2 and, in his private practice, Hager has reportedly refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.3

Unfortunately, this is only one of several cases in which the  administration’s candidates for scientific advisory positions have so lacked qualifications or held such extreme views that they have caused a public outcry.

1. See K. Tumulty, “Jesus and the FDA,” Time, October 5, 2002. According to this article: “Though his resume describes Hager as a University of Kentucky professor, a university official says Hager’s appointment is part-time and voluntary and involves working with interns at Lexington’s Central Baptist Hospital, not the university itself.” By way of comparison, consider the credentials of at least two nominees proposed by FDA staff for Hager’s position: Donald R. Mattison, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Michael F. Greene, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, as reported by OMBWatch at http://www.ombwatch.org/node/1267

2. For example, see W.D. Hager, As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1998.

3. Tumulty, Time.

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