March 9th, 2011


Drop Dead

I had a letter from the NHS last week, inviting me to sign up for a cancer screening programme. I was surprised I was invited. These days one expects to be ordered. But then, perhaps "invite" now means "order". You never know.

I won't be accepting the invitation, or obeying the order, whichever is appropriate. Why should I want to find out if I've got cancer? If they think I'm the teensy-weensiest bit at risk, the very first thing they'll do is order to me to stop smoking. Or invite me to stop smoking. And lay off the whisky. And the crisps and doughnuts and Melton Mowbray pork pies. And tell me to get some exercise. In short, they'll make my life no longer worth living.

So, while I stay away from them, cancer may be gnawing away at my innards, and cholesterol may be silting up my arteries, but I'll still have the pleasure of a cup of tea and a cigarette, or a whisky and a cigar. And I'll continue to be the master of my own life, maintaining my personal autonomy. And I'll retain my dignity. Once I walk through a hospital door, or into a doctor's surgery, it'll be the end of all pleasure, all autonomy, and all dignity. I'll become a slab of meat to be hectored and abused, before being sawn up and disposed of.

I haven't been to my doctor for 4 years now. When the smoking ban came into force, and the media blitz on smokers was in full spate, the bombs raining down everywhere, the last thing I wanted to do was to visit my doctor and be offered a Quit Smoking kit and be lectured about the dangers of tobacco. So I stopped going. I only ever went to get sleeping tablets anyway, and I found out that a few slugs of whisky was just as good as any sleeping tablet. In fact, a lot better.

The last time I saw her, she was wanting to read my blood pressure, or to get a reading of my blood sugar, even though I was perfectly well. But that's what screening is all about. You don't tell them when you're feeling unwell. They tell you. What you think means nothing to them. That's how they take away your worth.

I think there must be a lot of people like me. People who no longer want to visit their doctors if they can possibly help it. People who have started to see doctors as agents of state control, as a sort of health police. I imagine that anyone who is 'clinically obese' (which is more or less everyone, as best I can make out) will have the same attitude. So will anyone who enjoys a bottle of wine or three.

Doctors are no longer people who can be trusted. They have become people to fear. They are people who have control not only over life and death, but over more or less anything else anyone does. They used to be helpers and enablers. Now they have become tyrannical controllers.

I think that the inevitable consequence of all this is that people will stay away from doctors as much as they can. Who wants to go to their doctor simply to be told that it's their own fault that they're ill, because they smoked and drank and ate too much, and exercised too little? Who wants to be insulted some more, when they are already insulted enough every single day?

Nor is it that I think that these health bullies actually care two figs about anybody's health. They're quite obviously not trying to improve the health of smokers. They wouldn't make them stand outside pubs in driving rain if they wanted to do that. No, they're trying to exterminate smokers. And drinkers. And fat people. They'd like them to stand outside until they all drop dead.

And the result will be that, instead of public health improving, it will drastically deteriorate. For people who would otherwise would have gone to their doctors will now delay any visit for as long as possible, and quite likely to beyond the point when they they might be cured. Routine visits which might have allowed a doctor to notice a sallowness of complexion, a gauntness of face, a tremor in the hands, will no longer happen. Instead people will be admitted to hospitals with terminal cases of cancer or heart disease or malaria or dysentery or whatever. All the diseases that had once been banished will return with a vengeance.

But there's more. The smoking ban has shattered the social lives of millions of people, disconnecting them from friends, isolating them from the warmth of human society. In the comments on this blog, a year or so back, somebody wrote:

Thank you politicians for making my life not worth living after working from age 14 until 68. I am now 74 and have lost my soul and will to live in this lonely place.

And when people have lost the will to live, they're likely to die. They're likely to neglect to look after themselves, neglect to feed themselves, neglect themselves in every way. They may even take their own lives.

And why not? When life has ceased to be worth living, when all its pleasures have been forbidden, and all friendship has gone, what stronger incentive can anyone have to end their life?

So apart from many more people dying from untreated disease, there's also likely to be many more suicides. Which reminds me that up until 10 years ago I hardly knew anyone who had committed suicide. Now I know of about 5 of them. And almost all of them people who were perfectly well at the time of their death, and who seemed to have no obvious reason for taking their own lives, but who nevertheless decided that there wasn't anything worth living for any more.

And anyway in the modern climate of brutal state bullying, of insulting and demonising smokers and drinkers and fat people, isn't this relentless vilification of so many people likely to bring a total collapse in self-esteem for many of them? How many people have committed suicide because they have been made ashamed of being smokers, ashamed of enjoying a few beers, ashamed of being fat, and in some cases trebly ashamed for being all three at once? If they're going to vilify people so much, why not just send them all an NHS-approved noose with which to hang themselves, complete with instructions for the use of?

So I expect to hear that the incidence of all diseases is increasing dramatically, and that suicides are sky-rocketing, and that more and more people are being found long dead of unknown causes in their homes, because they had no friends, and nobody visited them any more.

And the worst of it almost is that, even when the whole filthy 'health' campaign is finally halted (as it one day must be), the consequences will be felt for decades afterwards. Because trust in doctors, once lost, will not be recovered easily, or perhaps at all. And shattered communities won't repair themselves readily, or perhaps at all.

Decades after it's all over, they'll be still be finding the pathetic, desiccated remains here and there, alone in bed with an empty bottle, or hanging from a shower rail.