Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smokin' Mad

It’s a tenuous balance between “freedom to” and “freedom from” in the context of civil and personal liberties. We require legislation that protects society, and that sometimes steps on the toes of individual rights. We see this played out in a number of larger debates such as those on capital punishment, euthanasia, etc. Sadly, in order to gain certain rights we have to give up other rights. This sometimes comes back to bite us in the arse as we see when police have a criminal dead to rights for a crime, but the case gets dismissed due to a technicality in the bureaucratic aspect of law. That sucks when someone walks as a result who is a danger, but we must realise that, though one more bad guy is walking our streets, that the Police can’t simply walk through your door for no reason and tear apart your home on the off chance that they will find something incriminating. Some will say that “it’s not a problem if you’ve done nothing wrong” which holds some water. I am inclined, however, to lean more toward the statement that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

What has got me going on this tangent was something I heard in the news at suppertime this evening. Apparently doctors in Britain are passing a bill that authorises them to delay or refuse surgery (including life saving) to smokers, effective July 1st, 2007. G.P.’s can also refuse to serve as family doctor’s to smokers as part of this. I will not argue against the fact that smoking is unhealthy, and I am not a smoker myself, nor have I ever been. All of that aside, this new British policy, which has caught the attention of Canadian policymakers, is beyond outrageous!

Point number one, the doctor’s Hippocratic oath should be the first item brought to task. How can a doctor refuse life saving surgery? They can not, ethically anyway. I can say nothing else on this point – it’s black and white.

Secondly, how can a government justify the refusal of medical treatment to a citizen using a legal product in which the taxation benefits to the government is astronomical? Do we deny people medical treatment if they eat fast food daily? Of course not. Yet one can not dispute that fast food consumption is equally as bad as smoking, if not worse. I seem to recall watching the documentary “Super-size Me” where, after only a couple of weeks doctors warn the human guinea pig to end his experiment as his levels and damage to his liver are going through the roof. I would be willing to wager that a regular fast food diet will kill you faster by DECADES than smoking would.

How about people serving in the military? Should we give them medical treatment as they are subjected to horrendous working conditions, sleep deprived, eat crappy food and put themselves in harms way? Hell, it’s a choice, is it not? What about fishermen, coal miners, rig workers, etc.?

The sorry fact appears to be society’s tendencies to jump on the latest bandwagon. Smoking is the flavour of the month, just as temperance was in the early 1900’s, and fast foods seem to becoming the next big social evil to be banished. There is a lot of dangerous crap out there, and I’m glad that I am able to exist in smoke free environments when I go out (but, even if smoking were permitted in some places I’d still go out and make a grown-up decision as to whether I wanted to go to a smoking establishment or not). I do not dispute the hazards of smoking, but when I reflect on people close to me, I really wonder if we are not just predisposed to pop our cogs when the time comes. I have known nine people who have been or are friends, relatives or associates of mine who have had cancer in the past 20 years. Out of that group, four have been over 60 years of age. Of this group, two have been smokers. Out of these nine people, three have died and none of the three were smokers. When I look at older folks who I know (70+ years of age), some of them have more spunk in them – and they smoke – than many of people who are their juniors and non-smokers.

In conclusion, personal choice should be paramount. If someone wants to smoke, then that is their choice – society can deal with that just as they are by banning it in public places. I’m satisfied with the taxes on tobacco products covering their medical expenses – and if we want to go down that road, I wonder home much money I, a 38 year old athletic non-smoker, has cost the healthcare system thus far with surgical repairs on my jaw, shoulder, knee and toe, not to mention the number of times I’ve needed stitches, etc.? Does this mean that people who play sports like Rugby, Hockey or Soccer should also be refused medical treatment? Perhaps I should pack my athletics in and buy myself a pipe!


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