BMJ Rapid Response 6 February 2011 Evangelical Christian on Drugs Advisory Body

 Rapid ResponsesNews: New appointment to drug advisory body sparks controversy

  • Clare Dyer

BMJ 2011;342:doi:10.1136/bmj.d624 (Published 31 January 2011)


“New appointment of evangelical Christian to drug advisory body    sparks controversy” Please spare us emotive headlines!

  • Felix ID Konotey-Ahulu, Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Consultant Physician Genetic Counsellor in Sickle & Other Haemoglobinopathies 10 Harley St London W1

“New appointment of evangelical Christian to drug advisory body sparks controversy” Please spare us emotive headlines!

The term “sparks controversy” [1] 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.


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” [1]. 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? [2]


Clare Dyer states that these appointments “were made under a code of practice that requires all appointments to be made on merit” [1].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” [1] 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?


The British Medical Journal [3] 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 [4]. 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 [5], 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 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 condemnation.

Conflict of interest: I am a staunch believer in The LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu MD(Lond) FRCP DTMH
Kwegyir Aggrey 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 300)

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: None declared

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Published 6 February 2011


Controversy or just plain prejudice?

  • Trevor G Stammers, Programme Director in Medical Ethics

St Mary’s University College, London

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 views openly.

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 Health Study. Addiction. 2001;96:1589-1601.

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

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Published 6 February 2011

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