Porn on the NHS?

There’s been some recent attention directed to the news that the NHS provides pornography to men at IVF clinics when they’re required to produce some sperm. I say “news” — I thought this had been happening for ages. But a recent report has highlighted the practice, and the Sun and Telegraph have both published stories following up.

The two newspapers concentrate on the waste-of-public-money angle. The original report uses this argument, and also briefly gives some general anti-porn arguments, and a couple concerning how the NHS particularly is morally obliged to refrain from exposing its staff and patients to pornography (the “report” is a short and easy read).

Against this, Ben Goldacre points out in the Guardian that the average amount spent on porn is £21.32 a year per NHS trust. More seriously, he argues that there’s a reasonable amount of evidence suggesting that providing porn increases the quality of sperm produced, and thus the chances of successful IVF, and that this might be more important than moral scruples.

And against Goldacre, Kat Banyard writes to the Guardian to argue that all pornography is harmful — indeed, “a public health crisis” — and shouldn’t be provided in clinics, no matter what the benefits. She cites a Ministry of Justice report as evidence. I’m not sure which MoJ report she’s referring to, but I’m guessing it’s this one (direct link to pdf — not a short and easy read), which is concerned with extreme pornography. So it’s not clear to me that it or the meta-analyses it contains can support her general conclusion about all pornography (though I can only identify two of the three meta-analyses she mentions; is there a different report that I’ve missed?).

Anyway, some engaging to-and-fro, and some interesting issues — I’d never considered a possible increase in the motibilty of sperm as an argument in favour of pornography.

UK Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health

Stonewall’s report on this important topic is out. Here are their key recommendations to the NHS:

1. Understand lesbian health needs:
Only one in ten lesbian and bisexual women said that healthcare workers have given them information relevant to their health care needs.
2. Train staff:
Only three in ten lesbian and bisexual women said healthcare workers did not make inappropriate comments about their sexual orientation.
3. Don’t make assumptions:
Two in five lesbian and bisexual women said that in the last year healthcare workers had assumed they were heterosexual.
4. Explicit policies:
Only one in eleven say that their GP surgery displayed non-discriminatory policy.
5. Tell lesbians what they need to know:
Three quarters of lesbian and bisexual women think they are not at risk from sexually transmitted infections.
6. Improve monitoring:
One in ten lesbian and bisexual women stated that when they did come out to a healthcare worker they were either ignored, or the healthcare worker continued to assume they were heterosexual.
7. Increase visibility:
Half of young lesbian and bisexual women have self-harmed in the last year. Increased visibility of lesbian and bisexual women will help improve self-esteem and morale.
8. Make confidentiality policies clear:
One in eight lesbian and bisexual women are not sure what their GP’s policy is on confidentiality.
9. Make complaints procedures clear:
Half of lesbian and bisexual women have had a negative experience in the health sector in the last year.
10. Develop tailored services:
Only two per cent of lesbian and bisexual women have attended a service tailored towards their needs.

Lots here that seems to me of interest to those interested in issues at the intersection of politics and epistemology: the importance of not making false assumptions based on prevailing norms, the importance of actively working to facilitate communication on sensitive matters, the importance of actively combatting dangerous false beliefs, the importance of knowing what information is relevant. And yes, put in these terms this stuff is not just about lesbians and bisexuals. These are good general practices, but the particular case of lesbians and bisexuals helps to make clear their importance. (Thanks, Heg!)

Straight Talk. Yeah.

From the Wall Street Journal:

A female Los Angeles Times reporter inquired today about comments made earlier this week by McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett Packard.

At a breakfast with reporters, Fiorina suggested that individuals–and women in particular–be given more flexibility to determine what their health insurance plans should cover. “There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won’t cover birth-control medication. Those women would like a choice,” she observed.

When McCain was asked for his position on the issue, he said—with a nervous laugh–“I certainly do not want to discuss that issue.”

The reporter pressed. “But apparently you’ve voted against—“

“I don’t know what I voted,” McCain said.

The reporter explained that McCain voted against a bill in 2003 that would have required health insurance companies to cover prescription birth control. “Is that still your position?” she persisted.

During the awkward exchange, with several lengthy pauses, McCain said he had no immediate knowledge of the vote. “I’ve cast thousands of votes in the Senate,” McCain said, then continued: “I will respond to—it’s a, it’s a…”

“Delicate issue,” the reporter offered, to a relieved laugh from McCain.

“I don’t usually duck an issue, but I’m—I’ll try to get back to you,” he explained.