Ashcroft Explains Opposition to Satcher’s 1998 Nomination as Related to AIDS Studies
During yesterday's Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee John Ashcroft, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) questioned Ashcroft on his opposition to the appointment of Dr. David Satcher for surgeon general in 1998. Ashcroft explained that he contested the nomination on ethical grounds, saying, "Dr. David Satcher supported a number of activities that I thought were inconsistent with the ethical obligations of ... the surgeon general, because I think the surgeon general is an individual to whom America must look for guidance in terms of not just technical expertise, but the kind of ethics that ought to accompany people who have life-and-death decision-making in their hands." Ashcroft said that Satcher "supported an AIDS study on pregnant women in Africa where some patients were given placebos, even though a treatment existed to limit transmission of [HIV] from the mother to child. In my understanding, this would not be an acceptable strategy for a study in the United States, but he was willing to support the study under those terms in Africa." In addition, Ashcroft said that Satcher "lobbied Congress to continue an anonymous study testing newborn infants' blood for the AIDS virus, without informing the mother if the test was positive." Ashcroft added, "I ... believed his willingness to send [HIV]-infected babies home with their mothers without telling their mothers ... was another ethical problem that was very serious" ( Washington Post transcript, 1/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.