Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Garth Rattray | The dangers of free speech

Published:Monday | January 11, 2021 | 12:06 AM

What if a medical doctor were to totally disregard experts in venerology, infectious diseases, microbiology and public health, and attempt to make public a personal opinion regarding the use of condoms? What if he/she were to seek the opportunity to repeatedly use mainstream media, through television and print, to rubbish the accumulated knowledge, skill and hard work of all the relevant experts? Should he/she be afforded mainstream media platforms to peddle prattle? I think not!

Condoms are “… a barrier method of contraception. They are made of very thin latex (rubber), polyurethane or polyisoprene and are designed to prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from meeting an egg. They can also protect against STIs if used correctly during sex”. When it comes to preventing pregnancy, if used without a spermicidal agent, given the imperfections of how condoms are used and the failings of the condom itself, they are about 85 per cent effective.

During intercourse with an infected individual, condoms are about 98 per cent effective at protecting you against most STIs, 90 to 95 per cent effective against HIV transmission, but only about 70 per cent at protecting you against HPV infection. Interestingly, I had a female patient who would collapse from a severe allergic reaction whenever she came into contact with latex. She is not unique; others sometimes react less severely with localised or generalised itching, rash and swelling. Most men, and some women, are aware of the reduced sensitivity when using a condom. There is less tactile and heat-transfer sensation, and the knowledge of there being a mechanical barrier between them reduces sexual pleasure. Consequently, especially in older men, there is a loss of turgidity or outright impotence when a condom is applied.


Since the condom has several failures and possible cons with its use, what if it were proposed that it’s a waste of time? What if it were said that the likelihood of getting an STI is minimal? What if it were announced that only a few STIs might result in death, that most STIs are treatable, and that you can live with some of them? What if it were said that, as far as pregnancy is concerned, women get pregnant every day? Should that unbalanced opinion be given a mainstream platform in the newspaper, and on TV, to berate the use of condoms and suggest that we are acting hysterically over the barrier method? I certainly think not!

And what if someone wanted to publicise that pipe bombs are not as dangerous to the general population as you were made to believe? The injuries and loss of life from a pipe bomb are minuscule when compared to our population of nearly three million. Should someone be allowed to tell the public how to construct that improvised explosive device? Should that information be given the freedom to denigrate the police, security and bomb experts? Should anyone be given a platform on TV and the newspapers to spread the word? After all, the fact is that the vast majority of us would be safe from a pipe bomb and from an STI, even if we take absolutely no precautions…but no one should be allowed to express his/her ‘freedom of speech’ in mainstream media, because it will certainly endanger an indeterminate number of people.

Although those facts about pipe bombs are true, it must also be emphasised that a pipe bomb is a very dangerous device and should never be constructed. And opinions about condoms must be tempered in order to safeguard against STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Individualistic opinions, particularly from people with unknown ulterior motives, should never be allowed the privilege of free speech in mainstream media, especially when those opinions are replete with falsehoods. They endanger the entire population and become the beacon for uninformed, selfish and delusional minds to express their similarly misguided and very dangerous ideations. Highly publicised attitudes can do far more harm to society than a lack of condoms or an exploding pipe bomb.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and