Saturday, June 23, 2012

You, Your Health, and the Government

How far should the arm of government extend where individual health is concerned.  There is the argument that government has a vested interest in the health and welfare of its citizenry.  That is a fact.  After all, there is money involved - your health and the maintenance of your health affects government expenditure as well as that of the private insurance sector - and more.

But The Blog is asking you to put the cost factor aside for the moment, and consider only the concept itself.

Does a government have the ethical right to regulate the health of its citizens?  Is it the function of government to monitor how we eat, what we eat, whether or not we get proper physical exams, whether or not we get appropriate blood tests, whether or not we smoke, use drugs, or drink alcohol, exercise, etc.

A government has the right and the responsibility to protect its citizenry from the behavior of those whose habits may interfere with the health of others -  but not when it affects only an individual's own health and well-being.  If smoking, drugs, etc. negatively affect the health and welfare of the non-user, then these forms of behavior should be appropriately restricted or banned.  What one eats, when one goes for a physical examination, whether one exercises, what blood tests one obtains, how one wishes to be treated or not treated for a disorder, is not in a government's realm of responsibility!  Even the wearing of seat belts or safety helmets goes against the concept of individual rights - the only one who is affected is the non-wearer - no one else.

This is not to argue that the government, or any private corporation should not invoke methods to encourage individual health and well-being.  The government can demand that seat-belts be available in all cars.  An insurance company can vary premiums depending on whether seat belts were properly applied or whether clients are smokers.  A government and an insurance company can encourage healthy life-styles by tax deductions, credits, and premium adjustments.

So consider what a government should be permitted to actively restrict or ban.  Forgetting the cost factor, shouldn't you, and you alone be responsible for your own well-being.  You may not, however, while participating in unhealthy behavior, negatively affect the health and welfare of those around you.  It is to this latter function that governments should confine their regulations.

But what to do when considering the issue of cost?   How big a factor should this be in a government's application of regulations regarding individual health maintenance?

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