SLiNK Thinks: Royal College of Surgeons, Obesity and Smoking

The problem with plus size and the media, is that often the discussion lacks balance and rational thought.

On Friday we went live on the radio to discuss the Royal College of Surgeons report that those with a high BMI and smokers were unfairly and unjustly being denied 45 operations across the country. Yes, that’s right FORTY-FIVE and while a list of surgeries was not given, the idea that all 45 are related to weight or smoking is doubtful. While there were some examples given, namely knee or hip replacements, these have been noted to still be highly successful even in those with a BMI of 50 or over.

But now we have set the scene, let us dissect the argument we were given by radio DJ’s up and down the country. In fact, let us take this problem apart in 10 easy bites.

  1. BMI is a faulty measuring system, it doesn’t take enough of an individual approach to a persons lifestyle and habits. We have seen this time and time again, yet the age old measurement won’t budge. Until each operation is dealt with on a case by case basis there will be dozens of people who are missing out.
  2. As the Royal College of Surgeons quite rightly said, if there is someone who does want to lose weight, the need of a replacement knee or hip will hinder this. And if the RCS says it is unjust and operations are safe to carry out, aren’t they the experts?
  3. When it comes to cost cutting, take it away first from those seen by society as most gluttonous. Because for most the argument when discussing obesity always comes down to the idea of being too greedy. The truth is we aren’t all one size and have never all been one size. This has become a debate about social acceptability and not about health.
  4. Health, oh yes, that is what this should be about right? You can’t decide what makes a person healthy by simply totting up their weight against their height. As medical professionals one would’ve hoped Doctors had realised that by now, gosh that is rather embarrassing right?
  5. If smokers and those with a high BMI are going to be denied the same level of NHS service, should we not pay less tax? Don’t ask me to pay into a pot and then not give me my slice. But that doesn’t work because the NHS is there for EVERYONE whether you pay in or not, or unless you’re fat (soz).
  6. The main argument we face was about looking after your body, should the NHS look after you and give you replacement parts if you can’t be trusted to look after it when you get it. This is essentially like taking a toy away from a child – except it is a hip.
  7. The truth is, we do have a responsibility to look after to ourselves, but this is mainly for our own benefit and for those that love us, but can the government or the NHS force us to look after ourselves? And how can we want to look after ourselves if we are always told how ‘wrong’ we are. Health isn’t just about running round the park in a Phoebe Bouffant manner, it is a complex balance of physical and mental health that subsequently contribute to our ability to live a happy and healthy life.
  8. Sometimes it will be down to weight or whether you have smoked, that’s true. But we sell cigarettes – t0 SIXTEEN year olds and we sell sugar to EVERYONE – it seems a bit hypocritical to have relatively lax regulations on product or to in fact sell these things then punish people for buying them.
  9. Don’t we all deserve a second chance though? Even if you have suffered at the hands of your own decisions, we give drug addicts and alcoholics the opportunity of rehab and we should help to rehabilitate those who have been convicted of a crime. So yes even if you have gambled with your own health, sometimes we don’t realise the value of our health until it is gone and diminished. You’re right maybe the person given the operation won’t change but the new improved quality of life and reminder that pre surgery life wasn’t great will hopefully spur that person on to live their second chance to the max.
  10. Is it humane? We are not judge, jury and executioner. Yes the pot of money isn’t bottomless but that is why taxing big corporations for sugar and cigarettes needs to be enforced fully and the money used to supplement.

Operations are always risky and should be, as the Royal College of Surgeons suggested be done on case by case basis. There is no logical or ethical (only financial) reason to blanket ban those with a high BMI or smokers from 45 operations. We have a healthcare system for all not for societies most socially acceptable.


-- Editor-in-Chief SLiNK Magazine