I’ve been taking an interest today in a debate in the House of Commons a few days ago, highlighted by Dick Puddlecote, in which Jacob Rees-Mogg was seeking to replace the words “social solidarity” with “medical necessity” in a bill before the House. He wanted to see added to the bill the following:
“nothing in this section shall be interpreted as entitling or requiring the Secretary of State to direct people in their personal conduct, nor provide unsolicited advice on diet or behaviour, nor to spend public funds on propaganda, nor to discriminate against specific foodstuffs, nor detrimentally to affect any lawful industry;”
The following exchange set out the divide between the two sides (my emphases added):
Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health) 2:45 pm, 10th February 2015
I have been listening very carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Does he accept that his amendment is fundamentally flawed, in that it would change the wording to place a duty on the Secretary of State to promote a comprehensive health service based on “medical necessity”, which fundamentally misses the point? We are no longer talking about a medical model of the national health service. His own Secretary of State is talking about doing more preventive work and more on public health to prevent people from getting ill in the first place. The hon. Gentleman’s amendment would fundamentally weaken that.
Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset
Yes, absolutely it would. I am very suspicious of the Government telling me that I should not eat things such as bacon sandwiches, or whatever it is that Labour party members so much enjoy. I want to eat those things without interference from the Government. I have every intention of speaking on that important matter later in my remarks. I have tabled other amendments to make it absolutely clear that I think that the health service is about curing people who are ill, rather than telling us how to live our lives.
I’m with Jacob Rees-Mogg, of course. I think the health service should be about curing people who are ill. That is what I always understood it to be about.
But that’s all in the past now, it seems. The idea now is to prevent people getting ill in the first place, if necessary by forcing them (as with smoking bans) to adopt the necessary preventive measures.
But I think it’s sheer conceit for anyone to believe that they can prevent people getting ill. It supposes that they know precisely all the causes of disease, and this is manifestly untrue and utter vanity. The truth of the matter is that these so-called ‘health experts’ have very little idea of the causes of most diseases. They just like to believe that they do.
One may therefore predict with perfect certainty that they won’t manage to prevent any disease at all. And in fact, one may also predict with perfect certainty that they will make matters much, much worse.
Soon we will be facing a public health catastrophe, with the incidence of all diseases rising dramatically.
But it seems to me that now that prevention has taken primacy over cure, we can expect the health service’s efforts to be directed more and more at (ineffectual) prevention, and less and less at cure. After all, if you think you can prevent something, you won’t think you’ll need to cure it. And so, in the extreme, it may even be that all the health service’s resources will be devoted to prevention, and none at all to cure. We can expect hospitals to close, and an even greater army of busybodies than we already have to be working to bully and cajole people into adopting the required preventive practices. And anyone who has the misfortune to actually become ill will find themselves facing sanctions because their illness will be taken as evidence that they had not adopted the prescribed preventive practices. If you are ill, they will be told, it can only be because you have somehow managed to smoke or drink or eat forbidden foods, despite your protestations to the contrary.
At the same time, more and more people will revolt against this tyranny, and refuse to do as they are told/required. And in the unlikely eventuality that some preventive measures might actually have been effective, they will be ignored. And there will be a collapse of public trust in a medical profession that has abandoned its true purpose: the care of the sick.
Millions of people are going to die, many of them in agony, before the health service is returned to its core purpose of the care (and hopefully cure) of the sick. And they will die because of the arrogance and conceit of an entire generation of doctors. Many of whom, I hope, will live to see themselves being struck off the medical register.