No Surgery for British Smokers?
This news is a couple of months old, but I stumbled across it and still think that it’s worth noting. Apparently, the National Health Service in England is considering a plan to bump patients of surgery waiting lists if they refuse to quit smoking one month prior to surgery.
SMOKERS are to be asked to give up their habit before they are put on the waiting list for routine operations such as hip replacements and heart surgery.
National Health Service managers say smokers take more time to recover from surgery, blocking beds for longer and costing more to treat.
NHS managers want patients not to have smoked any cigarettes for a full month before surgery. But as they would be expected to take about two months to stop, operations could be delayed by up to three months.
The managers do insist, however, that it is up to doctors to decide whether the surgery can still go ahead if the patient fails to give up.
Some doctors argue that the policy could deter smokers from attending appointments because they believed that they would not qualify for treatment.
I haven’t yet been able to determine if this policy will go through or not, but it’s a disturbing prospect nonetheless, and illustrates one real danger of government controlled health care. Namely, the fact that once the government controls the purse strings, they can manipulate freely chosen behavior in subtle and insidious ways. Once it’s acceptable for government to de-prioritize patients for one particular habit, how much longer until the next unhealthy habit causes an increase in your wait? Obese? To the back of the line! Enjoy beer drinking? Back of the line! Don’t exercise enough? Back of the line!
In a private health care system, I don’t have a problem with, say, smokers or obese people paying higher insurance premiums–much like driving a red Ferrari, you need to pay more as your risk goes up. But the difference between paying extra insurance for an unhealthy habit and having one’s medical needs marginalized for an unhealthy habit is enormous. If anything, what the NHS is doing is almost worse than an outright ban on unhealthy activities. In essence, what the government is doing here is punishing people for engaging in lawful activities. That’s just disgusting.