U.K. Smoker Denied Surgery for Broken Ankle
Britain’s National Health Service had denied surgery for John Nuttall–the reason? He’s a smoker.
A man with a broken ankle is facing a lifetime of pain because a Health Service hospital has refused to treat him unless he gives up smoking.
John Nuttall, 57, needs surgery to set the ankle which he broke in three places two years ago because it did not mend naturally with a plaster cast.
Doctors at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro have refused to operate because they say his heavy smoking would reduce the chance of healing, and there is a risk of complications which could lead to amputation.
They have told him they will treat him only if he gives up smoking. But the former builder has been unable to break his habit and is now resigned to coping with the injury as he cannot afford private treatment.
He is in constant pain from the grating of the broken bones against each other and has been prescribed daily doses of morphine.
I’m not a doctor, but I suspect that, given the NHS’s past statements on the matter, that this has very little to do with the actual risks of complications and more to do with the bottom line. After all, Mr. Nuttall risks a lot more with his limited mobility, not to mention the fact that the side effects of his daily morphine prescription–which can include respiratory depression and severe constipation–aren’t exactly trivial.
Now it may well be that the risks of surgery are substantial, but I’m not sure that they are so substantial that Mr. Nuttall deserves to live the rest of his life in constant pain.
Update (Steve Verdon): I have to say I find this story rather amusing in a grim fashion since it is often a story we’d hear from the advocates of universal health care; that a person is denied care because of the inability to pay. In a country where there is supposedly universal health care, care is denied to a patient who obviously needs it.