Doctors back calls to withhold treatment for smokers and the obese

Caroline Cassidy

A new survey has revealed that more than 50 per cent of doctors would back measures to deny NHS treatment for smokers and the obese.

doctors urge NHS to withhold non-emergency treatment for smokers and the obese
doctors urge NHS to withhold non-emergency treatment for smokers and the obese

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The poll, by website, asked members: 'Should the NHS be allowed to refuse non-emergency treatments to patients unless they lose weight or stop smoking?

Of the 1,096 doctors that took part in the voluntary survey, 54 per cent answered yes.

The withholding of treatment would not, of course, include the treatment of serious illness or emergency procedures but a number of private health clinics have already banned IVF treatment and hip and knee replacements on the grounds that the surgery is less likely to work on those with unhealthy habits.

Some medical experts have called for the NHS to do the same amidst ever-increasing cuts, though patient groups have slammed the idea claiming it is a breach of human rights.

Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of, told The Observer: 'This might appear to be only a slim majority of doctors in favour of limiting treatment to some patients who fail to look after themselves, but it represents a tectonic shift for a profession that has always sought to provide free healthcare from the cradle to the grave.'

However, others have condemned the idea of a ban. Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: 'Clearly, giving up smoking is a good thing, but blackmailing people by telling them that they have to give up isn't what doctors should be doing.'

Similarly, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, Dr Mark Porter insisted that treatment bans were 'wholly unacceptable'.

What do you think? Should the NHS save money by banning non-emergency treatments for smokers and the obese? Leave your comments below...