James W. Holsinger

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James W. Holsinger was nominated on 2007-05-24 by US president George W. Bush to be the 18th US Surgeon General, filling the space vacated by Richard Carmona on 2006-07-31 and temporarily occupied by Kenneth P. Moritsugu. "His nomination has encountered opposition based on allegations that he is hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people." [W]

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Issuepedia Conclusions

Although Holsinger's primary arguments against homosexuality do at least seem to be more grounded in science than most such arguments, the arguments are still seriously flawed, and the mere fact that Bush has recommended him is reason enough to be suspicious of him given Bush's track record. On the other hand, he is hardly the worst of Bush's nominees, and it might be that he would do a good job in spite of his apparent bias.


  • Anti-smoking
  • Anti-obesity
  • Has some ideas about rethinking the way medicine is done as a business: "The shortcomings of contemporary health care — with regard to cost containment, access, and quality — are gradually leading us away from individualistic reliance upon the physician-centered Hippocratic tradition, in which excessive resources are allocated toward end-of-life care, preventable health care needs, and the most fortunate or aggressive patients. This has been evidenced recently by heightened emphases placed on wellness, consumerism, and prevention, attributes largely ignored by previous generations of physicians and patients. To broadly address the inadequacies and inefficiencies seen today, the relationship between physicians and society must be directed toward a partnership of mutual respect and quality care, and away from absolute physician and patient autonomy." PDF in frame Who is he suggesting should make the decisions, if neither the patient nor the physician (nor the two of them together) make the ultimate call? An HMO? (Hopefully not...)
  • Opposes the use of federal funds for embryonic-stem-cell research (according to the White House)


Holsinger has apparently not made any firm statements about what his policies would be with regard to homosexuality if he were to become Surgeon General, so we are forced to extrapolate from his past actions and statements.

  • (2005-04-29) As president of the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council (the highest authority within the UMC on matters of church policy and rules), he joined with the majority in upholding the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline which states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and therefore homosexuals cannot become ministers within the UMC. (However, this is not necessarily indicative of Holsinger's views on homosexuality itself, outside of the context of Christianity.)
  • (2002) As Chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, he made a statement in support of a session on lesbian health held by the Women's Health Center, despite harsh criticisms of the session by two state senators who threatened to pull the hospital's funding.
  • (2000) His association with the Hope Springs Community Church speaks somewhat ambiguously regarding his views on homosexuality, though it has certainly added to the controversy
  • (1991) His "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" white paper seems to argue against the viability of homosexuality on the grounds that it involves innately risky behavior, i.e. anal sex, though he seems to undermine his main point by showing that women who have anal sex are less prone to these risks; the point seems clear -- he believes homosexuality is unnatural -- but his accounting for the disparity seems to rest on the assumption that heterosexual couples use proper lubrication and gay couples don't, which hardly proves that gay sex is unnatural.(I haven't read the full text, so I don't know if he produces any data to support the contention about lubrication usage -W.)
    • His further point about the "design" of human anatomy with respect to different sexual practices is certainly reasonable and probably accurate (especially if you interpret "design" in the adaptationist sense rather than the Intelligent Design sense), but again this only argues for proper education before engaging in sex of any kind (or, at most, argues against anal sex), rather than being an argument against homosexuality per se. He does not seem to be applying it as such, but then he surely must know that it will be used that way, and yet makes no apparent attempt to clarify this distinction (unless it's in the full text... W.).
    • It remains to be seen whether he would attempt to turn these conclusions into official US medical policy, although that is clearly a risk if he is appointed (unless he issues or has issued statements to the contrary).