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The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, (@David_Cameron) recently announced a new proposal that would impact people who are receiving government benefits for what he calls “treatable conditions”. One of the targeted conditions is obesity. In his plan anyone receiving government benefits for obesity would have to agree to follow a “government selected treatment plan” or jeopardize losing part or all of their benefits.
He has appointed Professor Dame Carol Black to investigate this issue and offer suggestions on how to get people with these “treatable conditions” back to work. It will be her job to determine whether benefits will be cut or eliminated if claimants refuse the recommended treatment plan.
Implications of Government Mandated Weight Loss
Several concerning questions come to mind when thinking about what a “recommended treatment plan” would look like? Would it be diet, exercise, medication, and/or surgery? Would it be a universal or individualized plan? How would the effectiveness of the weight loss plan be judged?
As a fat woman over the age of 45 I have had my share of medical professionals suggest weight loss methods to me. In each case I considered their suggestion, reviewed the pros and cons, and decided whether the risks of the treatment (often quite substantial) were acceptable to me. In some cases the risks were not even known at the time a treatment option was suggested, as was the case with the diet drug Redux which later caused severe heart issues in many patients. I wonder how I would feel if the government mandated that I take a drug in order to receive sickness benefits…drugs that may have lasting long term consequences.
Metabolic Causes and Government Mandated Weight Loss
To make this unethical plan more palatable, they indicated that they would probably include a clause protecting obese claimants with metabolic or other medical causes for their obesity. However, I wonder how many of the obese individuals on benefits presently have an undetermined medical cause for their obesity. I know how frustrating it is to have doctors insist you must not be following a diet or exercise plan correctly because you are not losing weight.
For most of us this is just a frustration but if this plan goes into effect and the government doesn’t see the outcomes they expect, our obese friends in England could be accused of not following the treatment plan and lose the only income they have to live on.
Where Do We Draw the Line?
Obesity is a disease! Yes, lifestyle choices are factors in the disease but controllable factors play a part in many diseases. And for obese people with eating disorders (actual mental health issue, by the way), will they receive the treatment they really need? Or will their treatment be just another diet plan that refuses to accept the impact of mental health problems – which undoubtedly, they will fail.
And what about the right to choose? Will the government force a person with cancer to get treatment or an individual with a failing organ to get an unwanted transplant? Will they cut benefits off for a diabetic who eats a piece of cake at a birthday party? Will they require a woman to abort a fetus that will be born with developmental issues? Where do we draw the line?
Government Mandated Weight Loss – Where do we draw the line? <— Click to Tweet
Mr. Cameron was quoted as saying “People have problems with their weight that could be addressed but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.” Well Mr. Cameron, I personally don’t think that anyone would make the choice to be fat nor do I think that most people would stay fat just so they don’t have to work.
Take a Stand Now
I implore all fat people and their supporters to join me and ask the Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, to stop these bullying tactics and discriminatory actions.
@David_Cameron, stop government mandated weight loss. <— Click to Tweet
10 Downing Street