People injured whilst participating in extreme sports should not be treated by a publicly funded health service. Explain the reasoning behind this statement. Suggest an argument against this statement. To what extent, if any, does the statement justify a change in public attitudes to personal risk taking?
The statement states that people who voluntarily take risks with their health because they participate in extreme sports such as sky diving cannot expect tax payers to pay for their medical care if injured. It is a statement regarding social justice[fairness] because health systems such as the NHS are cash limited so that funds spent on such people will mean that less money is available for treatment for others. In a private or insurance based health system people who take risks would probably have to pay a higher premium.
A person’s autonomy has to be respected. They have a right to decide how to live their life and to do extreme sports if they wish. It is important to be non judgemental and act in the best interests of that patient which means treating injuries. If those participating in extreme sports are denied medical treatment for their injuries a slippery slope may be created in which those suffering from illnesses which may be in part also ‘self inflicted’ such as smoking or obesity related diseases may in future also find themselves excluded from state funded treatment.
At present ethical principles held by most, including the medical profession would value the principles of autonomy and beneficence over the idea that in doing so we would not be fair to others. The statement does put a valid argument to change attitudes to personal risk taking however because of the reasons outlined in paragraph two I disagree with a change of attitudes in this ‘rights versus responsibility debate.’
There is money to be made by not curing a disease.
We spend a lot of money on our health services.The NHS is the biggest employer in this country. The NHS budget is about £120 billion per annum , this is about 8-12% of GNP per annum for most European countries. In the US it is over 18% of GNP per annum. In US today anyone in workforce works about 6- 7 weeks a year to create resources they will then ‘consume’ as health care. Pharmaceutical companies have grown to be the immensely successful giants that they are by providing treatments for long term conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Long term conditions generate a lot of money for the payment of health workers and for drug companies e.g The treatment of diabetes costs over 10 billion [10% of the NHS budget]a year in the UK. Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money on new treatments for diabetes because the financial rewards are so great.
It is unethical and extremely rare for doctors and scientists to withhold ‘cures’ in order to carry on treating the patient. I do not believe conspiracy theories that ‘big pharma’ has cures for conditions but does not want to release them. However when scientists apply for research grants pharmaceutical companies with their enormous R and D budgets will look with more interest at research which is likely to lead to profitable drugs rather than cures which would limit the need for their drugs. The need to generate a profit for share holders may be counter productive in the quest for cure. In my opinion there it is sad but probable that businesses will focus on treatment rather than cures. Pharmaceutical companies have provided major breakthroughs in the past [eg Sir James Black discovered B blockers and then Tagamet] but over reliance will be detrimental. We face a world threatened by increasing antibiotic resistance. Dame Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer as called on governments to fund research as there is not much incentive for drug companies to fund antibiotics that are just usually taken for a few days while a new blood pressure pill may be taken continuously every day by a patient. Dame Sally said action was needed to overcome this “market failure” and stated that this should be taken up by the ‘Innovative Medicines Initiative’ – an EU funded body whose aim is to promote the development of new medicines. Bill Gates has poured a lot of money into the research of drugs which can cure diseases in the third world where drug companies would not be able to recoup costs. He has also supported GAVI a charity which funds vaccine research to prevent illnesses in the first place. The new rota virus vaccine which kills many children in the developing world has been funded in this way.
We need charities, university research departments and governments to also carry out research, particularly into cures because over reliance on pharmaceutical companies would probably mean more money is spent on research into treatments rather cures.