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    Tuesday, June 03, 2003

    Appalling: Britain’s Labour Party has plans to make demonization of the overweight and tobacco users a matter of national health policy:

    Overweight people and heavy smokers would have to sign contracts promising to diet or give up cigarettes in return for treatment, under radical new plans being drawn up by Labour.

    Written contracts would set out the patient's responsibilities while offering them help to cut down or quit smoking, lose weight, take more exercise or eat a more nutritious diet, The Times has learnt. Those who failed to keep their side of the bargain or kept missing appointments could be denied free care.

    The contracts would also bind doctors to certain standards of care and to providing a formal channel of redress if they fail to measure up.

    The Times provides a sample of what the contracts may look like:

    I, Margaret Smith, agree to co-operate with the following action plan to manage my emphysema, high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome:

    1: To reduce drastically and eventually cease smoking;

    2: To take moderate exercise daily;

    3: To reduce my intake of salt, eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and wholemeal bread and cut back fried, fatty and fast foods.

    In return, Dr George Kildare will treat me to the best of his ability for the above conditions, providing any medical assistance necessary, including nicotine-replacement therapy and blood pressure medication.

    Evidently the Labour Party hasn’t decided if the bit about denying care to those who fail to keep the pledge will be part of their plan. At least that’s what they’re saying now that angry voices have been raised:

    Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's General Practitioners Committee..."But we would deplore any suggestion that people would be denied free care because of their failure either to take medical advice or to respond to that advice.

    "At a time when we are working with the government to reduce bureaucracy in general practice, this idea amounts to a bureaucratic nightmare."

    ..Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "This is yet further interference by the government in how health professionals should treat their patients.

    ....Claire Rayner, president of the Patients Association, called them a "nasty piece of political chicanery" ...Ms Rayner said the logical conclusion of the plan would be to deny somebody treatment if they were hit while crossing the road because they were looking the wrong way at the time....This is another piece of political manipulation of the nastiest kind.

    "I find it repellent, and no patient of any sense is going to fall for it.

    She’s got a point. Where does this sort of thing end? At the moment, the western world is more tolerant of sexual indiscretions than it is of dietary indiscretions. More tolerant of drug abuse than of tobacco abuse. But what happens when the pendulum swings and sexual indiscretions are no longer tolerated? Will the NHS deny publicly funded treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to people who have sex outside of marriage? Will they deny obstetrical care to single mothers? AIDS treatment to gay men who chose to have homosexual sex? Or to drug addicts who chose to use IV drugs? Taken to its logical conclusion, it’s a very rigid, inhumane policy. Surprising for a political party that’s supposed to be liberal.

    (Special thanks to all those who emailed with links to this story.)

    posted by Sydney on 6/03/2003 09:31:00 PM 0 comments


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