Will UK Doctor’s Deny Treatment To Smokers And The Obese?

According to a newspaper report, there has been a major shift in medical opinion in the UK towards denying non-emergency medical treatment to alcoholics, smokers and the obese.

In a website survey doctor’s were asked the following question: “Should the NHS be allowed to refuse non-emergency treatments to patients unless they lose weight or stop smoking?” Of the 1,096 doctors who participated, 54% said yes.

This indicates a major shift in doctor’s thinking in the current world, so are we setting a dangerous precedent for the future i.e. you will only get medical help if you deserve it (or can afford it of course)!

Doctors who agreed with the policy gave the examples of denying in-vitro fertilization to childless women who smoke because the procedure was only half as successful for them as for non-smokers, and also denying obese or alcoholic patients liver transplant surgery unless they change their behaviors.

Hippocratic Oath

In accordance with the Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians since the late 5th century, and which lays down a specific code of ethics for doctors, no-one may be refused medical help that is in the power of the doctor to administer.

Line Two of the modern Hippocratic Oath reads: “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over-treatment and  therapeutic nihilism (a contention that curing people, or societies, of their ills by treatment is impossible).” It does not state “some of the sick’ or ‘a few of the sick’!

Medical Graduates Take The Oath

Line Six of the Oath ends with the words: “……Above all, I must not play at God.” So what has changed that a doctor now feels he has the right to play God with his patients? I  for one would like to know how doctors equate the current thinking with these two parts of the oath taken by all doctor’s when they graduate!

To be fair, I can well imagine the frustration some doctors must feel. When they have before them a patient suffering from diabetes and major heart problems who is so obese they cannot be moved without the aid of a crane, what do they do? The same goes for the situation where a chronic alcoholic requires a liver transplant or a chain-smoker needs a heart by-pass.

The human lifestyle has changed drastically over the past forty years, and if you look for cases of ‘self-abuse’ before giving medical treatment you can eliminate around ninety percent of the world population.  Taken to absolute extremes, do you refuse a heart operation to someone for simply not doing enough regular exercise? Do you refuse surgery to a person who partakes in extremely dangerous sports and has been injured ten times before? Extremes yes, but once on the slippery slope….!

Dr. Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners is quoted as saying: “Clearly, giving up smoking is a good thing, but blackmailing people by telling them that they have to give up isn’t what doctors should be doing.”

John Saunders of the Royal College of Physicians ethics committees commented: “Lifestyles contribute to risk and sometimes they may make treatments too risky to undertake, but that’s quite different to saying, I’m not going to give you surgery because you smoke or are overweight.”

Dr. Michael Ingram, who heads the Red House Clinical Commissioning Group in Hertfordshire wrote in an article: “Rationing is dressed up as science. Where does this go next? Will we deny IVF to those who have had pelvic inflammatory disease because of its association with sexual promiscuity?”

There can be little doubt this debate will continue, but I for one would hate to come across a doctor who refuses to treat me because I smoke. You can rest assured I would not be very gracious in telling him what I think.

‘Nuff Said!

In this precarious age where we are poisoning ourselves with car fumes every time we walk in the street, and are digesting all sorts of unnatural chemicals and insecticides every time we put something in our mouths I find it a little short-sighted of the medical profession to pick on the obese, the alcoholics and smokers and say we are not worth their efforts. In my opinion, it is impossible to set boundaries in this manner, and the medical profession should continue adhering to the oath of Hippocrates.

Roy.

2 Responses to “Will UK Doctor’s Deny Treatment To Smokers And The Obese?”

  1. david Says:

    In 2011 as an over 65 year old I was asked to attend a clinic to check whether or not I had a Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. It turned out that I had a small aneurism slightly less than 3 cms. Not categorised as life threatening I was told to return in 4/5 years. I have just done so and my GP has lectured me on my smoking and will report the fact to the London Hospital specialist department. He has warned me that there is a very distinct possibility that the Departmental Head will refuse to monitor this condition unless I give up smoking. As a Veteran with 20 years of Service and as a tax payer who has never taken benefits etc from the State I am rather upset by this Bullying/Black mail type of approach. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic oath ? Discrimination or not ??

    Like

    • Hi David and welcome,
      I am sorry to hear of your troubles, but I have to say it does not surprise me. The way the NHS is being run these days is scandalous and the government should do something about it. I can understand that the system is under intense pressure due to all the immigrants getting free medical aid, but it should be putting British people first, especially those who have paid in all their lives.
      I do not think that a doctor has the right to refuse treatment to any patient for as you say, they sign the Hippocratic Oath which forbids such discrimination. To be honest I am glad I no longer live in the UK for this kind of thing would make me very angry. I hope things turn out alright for you – good luck.
      Best Regards,
      Roy.

      Like

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