For a while now, the British government's tentacles seem to creep into every facet of its citizens lives. I've been following reports of everything from a family expelled from their neighborhood to government intervention to remove an obese boy from his mother. While noble on the surface, the continuing loss of UK citizen rights is disturbing to watch.
Yesterday, I found an article on proposed changes by the Tories to NHS policies that would deny medical benefits to people with "unhealthy" lifestyles (see 'NHS should not treat those with unhealthy lifestyles' say Tories):
Patients would be handed "NHS Health Miles Cards" allowing them to earn reward points for losing weight, giving up smoking, receiving immunisations or attending regular health screenings.
Like a supermarket loyalty card, the points could be redeemed as discounts on gym membership and fresh fruit and vegetables, or even give priority for other public services – such as jumping the queue for council housing.
. . . . .
The report calls for a greater emphasis on the "citizen's responsibility" to be healthy and says no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles.
Yet while the Health Miles Card would award points for giving up smoking and losing weight, it could penalise those who are already fit and well because they would receive no benefits under the scheme.
It's funny the article compares the proposed card to grocery store discount cards, used to track individual purchasing habits in exchange for discounts and rewards. These cards are enticement for individuals to be profiled and scrutinized. I have often wondered how far in the future health insurance companies will go to find out what individuals are buying. If you buy red meat or candy bars, could that cause you to pay higher premiums? In the case of this proposed "NHS Health Miles Card", I wonder if the governing policies will be as broad and, at the same time, nebulous as the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. How subjective will "unhealthy" be? Does somebody with a broken leg become unhealthy because they stop going to gym while healing? As studies come out (almost published daily these days), does the standard for "unhealthy" change depending on the study? If a person chooses not to take medicines in lieu of alternative treatment, is that individual cut off?
If such a plan comes to pass, the NHS would face a whole new set of problems aside from trying to define unhealthy. Those cut off from the program are still tax payers, paying for the NHS. Also it's worth noting that the philosophy of socialized medicine is everybody gets equal access to the same resources. The proposal may not happen, but it is a clear indication of the control mentality of Tory officials.
Yesterday, I read about how Lord Justice Sedley is advocating a national DNA database to track everybody in the UK, not just convicted criminals. Naturally this is under the guise of law enforcement. He referred to unsolved crimes. As we have learned from many past events, good intentions can lead to the most dire of situations. I can't imagine what a government that wants to cut off health care for unhealthy people would do with a library of DNA. The potential for abuse and misuse is limitless. See Judge wants everyone in UK on DNA database.
Today, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights organisation Liberty, warned against potential changes to how and when British authorities collected DNA data.
"The DNA debate reveals just how casual some people have become about the value of personal privacy," she said.
"A database of those convicted of sexual and violent crime is a perfectly sensible crimefighting measure.
"A database of every man, woman and child in the country is a chilling proposal, ripe for indignity, error and abuse."
The emphasis is mine. Chakrabarti is exactly right. Personal liberties and privacy erode as the culture accepts the constant, piece-by-piece dismantling of rights. There is no conspiracy. Instead there is a general cultural acceptance that the government knows best and people shouldn't take care of themselves. I can't speak with much knowledge of European culture, but this micro-management of UK citizens reminds me of the detail in the European Union's constitution. Instead of securing basic liberties and relying on law, the nearly 500 pages of the constitution tries to address nearly everything the authors could think up (see A Constitution for Europe). Why is so much regulation and control acceptable? The U.S. government is bad enough and I feel smothered as it is.
It's disturbing to see civil liberties destroyed by overzealous legislators, using law enforcement or public interest as an excuse.