Does censoring free speech come at the cost of public health?
By now, it is well understood that the Trump administration has curbed seven words from appearing in official documents prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to a report by The Washington Post, the newly-limited words and terms are: diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender and vulnerable.
However, the CDC explains no words are actually banned. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald responded to the report, “I want to assure there are no banned words at CDC.”
She went on, “CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people—and we will continue to do so.”
In a follow-up report, The New York Times cited a few CDC officials who referred to the move as a maneuver to help secure Republican approval of the 2019 budget via the elimination of certain words and phrases.
Whether it is ultimately political and ideological, or a measure by bureaucrats to save certain projects from budget cuts, terms like science-based and evidence-based are seeing their replacements in phrases like, “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”
The concern is that hazy language, especially in the medical field, can ultimately make the difference between a patient living and dying. This is because such language is not a dependable basis for making specific and patient-tailored prognoses and diagnoses.
The terms thus far are only successfully banned in one part of the CDC, but critics of the action worry that such bureaucratic actions will cause a domino effect — like the banning of the term climate change at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — eventually spreading the banned terms to the remainder of the organization, and by proxy, across the entire nation.
For example, the CDC is where doctors go when seeking whether or not to administer some vaccines. Back in 2000, pediatricians and family physicians learned it was safe to switch from a live polio vaccine to an inactivated one (IPV) in the United States because of the evidence the CDC had compiled, organized and posted to their website.
More specifically, practitioners knew specifically how much to administer (i.e., four doses of IPV at two months, four months, 6-18 months and a booster dose between ages four and six). This was scientifically tested and its effectiveness was proven — and none of this related to politics or bureaucracy.
Because of this testing, the IPV vaccine does not harm vulnerable populations, like children with immunodeficiency.
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