Health care as a moral issue

Alex talks about medical surveillance technology and the assumptions driving it and how wrong they can be and in the process makes a point that can be applied more generally:

Now, there is obviously some truth to this. Giving up smoking is a really good idea, as is taking your damn pills. But it is also highly problematic. For one thing, it assumes that the problem is non-compliance. In that sense, it transfers your problem from the domain of reality – a physical problem to be solved – into the domain of morality – a statement about good and bad. Rather than being poor, stressed, addicted, etc, the problem is that you are wrong and a bad person. As a rule, this is normatively evil, and of course it only works if the problem is not actually a real problem.

I’ve seen this sort of reasoning play out, or at least this was what it looked like from the outside, in the hospital Sandra stayed in for most of the last two-three years of her life. Sandra was a smoker, had been for decades and while fully aware of the risks, she also was certain that this would not be the thing that killed her and of course she was right… For her, as for many other people, the short term benefits of having a quick fag were more important than the long term health consequences.

Now when she first went into hospital it still have a couple of smoking rooms on the premisses, where both staff (more of whom smoked than you’d expect) and patients could go to. Then one day, in the middle of winter these were closed down because some busybody in higher management decided they don’t belong in a hospital. So now all those patients had to trundle out in the cold to get their fix, which certainly for Sandra didn’t do much for her health.

It’s that sort of attitude where the health health health message has to be driven home, even to people who are in no state to quit smoking, who are dealing with much more immediate problems and need the stress release fags offer. No, people need to be harassed and bullied into doing the right thing, even when it’s inappropriate.

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