this article entitled "Why should fat people take precedence over the elderly in the NHS?" on the Daily Telegraph's website recently and it's been bothering me and playing on my mind a bit ever since. I remember when I was at sixth form in my AS Level Critical Thinking (i.e. dos subject) we talked about this too; should people who knowingly over eat (or by the same token smoke or drink excessively or use illegal substances) have priority treatment over others under the NHS? Should they have to pay towards (or for all) of their treatment? Should they be given the top spot on waiting lists for operations, organ transplants etc. or should they go first to those whose conditions have been caused through no deliberate action of their own? At the time the majority of our class agreed that if a person who has been warned repeatedly by doctors and other means that their lifestyle is causing serious damage to their health then yes, they should be made to pay in some way and that it was unrealistic to expect the NHS and the taxpayer to pick up the bill for your over indulgence. (And although my opinion has greatly changed on this matter over the last five years I'm ashamed to admit to still being one of those people who, upon seeing someone very, very overweight on a mobility scooter, quietly grumbles inside that if they simply got off the thing and walked down the high street they would lose the weight anyway.)
So the question is; is one person really more deserving of medical treatment than another? Despite all of the grumblings to the contrary the answer has to be no. (What irritates me in particular in the linked article was the fact that the author categorically said that there should not be scapegoats should the NHS ration care yet what she herself proposes is replacing one scapegoat - the elderly - with a different one - the obese - which is just as bad.) Yes a person who has emphysema after years of chain smoking or someone who is twenty stone through over eating has done this to themselves, they have done it with a full knowledge of the risks, there was never a doubt about where it would end. And it is not fair that the elderly are being maltreated, ignored, denied basic care especially when they haven't done anything to cause their need for extra care apart from live to a ripe old age. But no matter how much we personally may disagree and disapprove of another person's choices these things do not change the fact that we all share the same innate dignity. We are, all of us, created in the image and likeness of God, all loved and cared for by Him and this never, ever changes whether we are young or old, obese or skinny, a smoker or non-smoker. Because of this dignity, the beautiful gift of life, the very marvel of our own creation we are all worthy of the same treatment, the same respect, the same love and care as everyone else. (This is why I get upset with myself when I think unfair things about others like that mentioned above...and spend half my life in Confession...) I totally agree that it is wrong that the elderly are marginalised when it comes to medical care but we do not improve things, make them any fairer or easier by inflicting that on someone else instead.