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Susan G. Komen: Can You Trust a Breast Cancer Organization Whose Staff and Board Members Lie About Breast Cancer?

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Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the  original post.

Can you trust a breast cancer organization whose staff and board lie about medical science, including breast cancer?

Today, amidst the outcry surrounding the decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to demand that its state affiliates terminate a successful five-year relationship working with Planned Parenthood clinics to increase access to breast cancer screening for low-income and uninsured women, it dawned on me that there is another pressing question here not being asked.

Why has the world's largest breast cancer advocacy organization hired senior staff people and elected to its board individuals who misrepresent, or are allied with those who misrepresent, medical and public health evidence, including about causes of breast cancer?

It seems to me that the most fundamental measure of accountability for an organization dealing with life-threatening illnesses and public heath problems such as breast cancer is the efficacy with which that organization evaluates, communicates about, and respects medical and scientific evidence. Further from that, it would seem imperative that such an organization hire staff and elect board members who uphold the highest standards of science and medicine without regard to personal ideology.

Yet Komen has done just the opposite. They hired a known anti-choice politician, failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, as their Senior Vice President for Policy, a woman who misrepresented facts about government funding of Planned Parenthood as part of her core campaign strategy, and who also supports the spread of misinformation about public health and individual consequences of abortion care, outright lies that have been soundly refuted by medical and public health experts. The foundation of Handel's career and poiltical candidacy is an ideology based on misrepresenting scientific, medical, and other facts.  Isn't that damaging to an organization that claims to be the world's largest donor to scientific research on breast cancer? Why would an organization concernd about accuracy in research hire such a person?

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