Others argue that a person’s autonomy has to be respected. They have a right to decide how to live their life if they wish. It is important to be non judgemental and act in the best interests of that patient which means treating the consequences of their habits. If those who are obese are denied treatment for their condition a slippery slope may be created in which those suffering from illnesses which may be in part also ‘self inflicted’ such as smoking related diseases or injuries from extreme sports may in future also find themselves excluded from state funded treatment.
It is more cost effective for the NHS to pay for gastric by-pass operations than pay for the consequences of obesity [eg diabetes drugs and joint replacements for arthritis]
At present ethical principles held by most, including the medical profession would value the principles of autonomy and beneficence [doing what most benefits the patient] over the idea that in doing so we would not be fair to others in this ‘rights versus responsibility debate.’
Figures published by the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre suggested that two thirds of men and half of all women are now overweight or obese in the UK. Only a third of adults manage 30 minutes of exercise once a week. It seems that the British are now the fattest in Europe!
What can we do about it? The BMA demanded a tax on sugary drinks and a ban on unhealthy food adverts targeted at children. This of course raises questions about the infringement of personal liberties. But in this country and others such as the USA and Denmark, which have introduced similar legislation, there is the growing realisation that unless we do some thing and try and tackle our unfit, overweight population our health systems might not be able to afford the consequences.
As a GP I promote exercise for it seems most disorders – from diabetes, menopausal hot flushes [helps temperature regulation and maintains bone density], to insomnia [promotes natural relaxation and sleep]. I often write a very simple exercise plan on a prescription to emphasise its value as a treatment. I refer the overweight to Slimmimg World and Weight Watchers and gyms [they can attend for free – courtesy of the NHS] but doctors get notoriously bad results – hence the rise in gastric bypass operations. Many have argued that we should pay people to lose weight and exercise, give them a monetary incentive and this would be far cheaper in the long run for the NHS. Some health bodies have already tried this and it works [see link below]! What do you think?