Thursday, September 10, 2009

Medication of the masses

Being a lowly Green I rarely achieve a national media hit but yesterday I spoke with a journalist from The Times who was writing a piece on whether selenium should be routinely added to wheat and, given the recent furore in Southampton where the residents will soon be medicated with fluoride whether they like it or not, I thought I'd say a little more on why it is wrong to mass medicate people.

For me, the issue is not one to be fought on whether the populations that are medicated would have an overall benefit, whether the increased toxicity of waste water will impact on the environment, or about individuals who will suffer the consequences of receiving a drug or supplement that their body doesn't need. For me, the issue is about choice vs techno fixes.

I am very aware that there are health issues to be addressed within the wider population. Anyone walking down a high st in Britain can see the obseity epidemic unfolding in our communities. Not only are people consuming too much, but many are consuming the wrong types of food. Others are becoming restless, depressed, anxoius and stressed. I could go on and on...

There are three broad approaches to health care. Firstly we can simply pick up the pieces when it has all gone wrong, just as the NHS often does. Secondly we can educate, incentivise and make it easier for people to make healthy choices. Thirdly we can force everyone to take preventative medication, supplements etc.

The power to take individual decisions and to make choices as long as those choses don't harm others is of great importance to me. There is a saying "Do as you will but harm no one" which I particularly like. The Green Party goes further: "The Green Party affirms the importance of individual freedom and self expression. We believe people should be free to make their own decisions on matters which do not adversely affect others. Its importance lies in valuing the opportunity people have to make their own decisions, accept responsibility for them and develop in their own way."

Primum non nocere translated as "First do no harm" should be at the root of health care. Should the needs of some outweigh the damage to others that mass medication can cause? Even if the vast majority benefit from the medication, should we harm the few? I think the answer is still no.

More difficult is if there is no possible harm to anyone or anything by the mass medication. Despite this being very unlikely, I would suggest that mass medication still removes the ability of individuals to choose. We need to make mistakes in our lives, to learn from them and to make better choices next time. This is a bit 'school of hard knocks' but it beats medication of the masses anyday.

Finally, the EU agrees with me... Article 5 of the EU Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine says: "An intervention in the health field may only be carried out after the person concerned has given free and informed consent to it."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vote Margaret Haywood for the Nursing Standard's Nurse Awards 2009

Margy was struck off for whistleblowing and is appealing against the decision next month. Please support her by voting for her here.

We need a new national campaign to protect whistleblowers as current legislation is clearly not working. Anyone who is prepared to stand up and be counted should be valued not punished.