Survey: 54% of UK doctors back denial of non-emergency treatment for smokers, obese; Update: Corrected

Some 54% of doctors who took part said the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight or stop smoking. Some medics believe unhealthy behaviour can make procedures less likely to work, and that the service is not obliged to devote scarce resources to them.

However, senior doctors and patient groups have voiced alarm at what they call “blackmailing” of the sick, and denial of their human rights…

Dr Tim Ringrose, Doctors.net.uk’s chief executive, said the findings represented a significant shift in doctors’ thinking brought on by the NHS in England’s need to save £20bn by 2015. “This might appear to be only a slim majority of doctors in favour of limiting treatment to some patients who fail to look after themselves, but it represents a tectonic shift for a profession that has always sought to provide free healthcare from the cradle to the grave,” he said.

Update (AP): The headline initially said doctors back denial of emergency treatment. Wrong: It’s non-emergency treatment that they support withholding. Sorry for the error. Meant to say “non” originally but somehow forgot it.