Rationing elective surgery for smokers and obese patients: responsibility or prognosis?
Background In the United Kingdom (UK), a number of National Health Service (NHS) Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) have proposed controversial measures to restrict elective surgery for patients who either smoke or are obese. Whilst the nature of these measures varies between NHS authorities, typically, patients above a certain Body Mass Index (BMI) and smokers are required to lose weight and quit smoking prior to being considered eligible for elective surgery. Patients will be supported and monitored throughout this mandatory period to ensure their clinical needs are appropriately met. Controversy regarding such measures has primarily centred on the perceived unfairness of targeting certain health states and lifestyle choices to save public money. Concerns have also been raised in response to rhetoric from certain NHS authorities, which may be taken to imply that such measures punitively hold people responsible for behaviours affecting their health states, or simply for being in a particular health state.