Socialized Medicine: Britain Bans Obese, Smokers From Getting Surgery


The largest and oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world, Britain’s National Health Service has announced that they will no longer provide non-urgent surgery to patients who smoke or patients who are above a certain BMI. The decision comes as the health services is suffering from a critical shortfall in funding and looking for ways to pinch pennies in advance of a financial crisis. To little surprise, the announcement was immediately met with intense pushback from the British public, the Royal College of Surgeons, and many others who see no reason why taxpaying Brits should be suddenly refused the services they fund.

The new rules were developed by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire. Under the regulatory guidelines, obese patients will be compelled to lose weight before being given the green light for surgery. Likewise, smokers will have to prove that they had their last cigarette at least eight weeks prior to going under the knife. Hospitals will test these patients with breathalyzer kits to ensure compliance with the standards.

According to the CCGs, the new rules will compel Brits “to take more responsibility for their own health and well being, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment.” The local CCGs are trying to save upwards of £68m this fiscal year, though they deny that the rules are a cost-saving measure.

“Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS,” Royal College of Surgeons Vice President Ian Eardley told the UK Telegraph. “This goes against clinical guidelines and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort. It can lead to even worse outcomes following surgery in some cases. There is simply no justification for these policies, and we urge all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to urgently reverse these discriminatory measures.”

American proponents of universal healthcare schemes like those proposed by Bernie Sanders would do well to take a long, hard look at this and think about whether or not this is the right direction for U.S. healthcare. Do we really want to create a system that will allow government officials to determine whether or not you or someone you love qualifies for surgery? Or would you prefer to have the freedom of choice that allows YOU and YOUR DOCTOR to make decisions based on what’s best for you?

Skinny non-smokers may feel justified in sneering at such a morbid future, but you can rest assured that NHS won’t stop dividing patients at obesity or tobacco usage. Have you had a soda in the last month? Have you smoked a joint in the last year? Can you pass the Congressional fitness test? Once the system starts going broke – and it will – the federal government will come up with all kinds of schemes to retain solvency. Sooner or later, those schemes will come down on you or someone in your family.

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