Junkfood Science: National medical welfare

January 26, 2008

National medical welfare

This story needs no introduction, but does deserve thoughtful consideration.

Don’t treat the old and unhealthy, say doctors

Doctors are calling for NHS treatment to be withheld from patients who are too old or who lead unhealthy lives. Smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations, according to doctors, with most saying the health service cannot afford to provide free care to everyone....

The findings of a survey conducted by Doctor magazine sparked a fierce row last night, with the British Medical Association and campaign groups describing the recommendations from family and hospital doctors as “outrageous" and “disgraceful"...

One in three said that elderly patients should not be given free treatment if it were unlikely to do them good for long. Half thought that smokers should be denied a heart bypass, while a quarter believed that the obese should be denied hip replacements...

Gordon Brown promised this month that a new NHS constitution would set out people's “responsibilities" as well as their rights, a move interpreted as meaning restrictions on patients who bring health problems on themselves. [A belief founded on pseudoscience that the natural diversity of sizes, health problems and aging are determined by compliance with ‘responsible’ or ‘good’ behavior.]

The survey found that medical professionals wanted to go much further in denying care to patients who do not look after their bodies.

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients' Association, said it would be wrong to deny treatment because of a “lifestyle" factor. “The decision taken by the doctor has to be the best clinical one, and it has to be taken individually. It is morally wrong to deny care on any other grounds," she said. Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's ethics committee, said it would be “outrageous" to limit care on age grounds... "it's not our job to play God."

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