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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Live long and fester?

26th February 2008

Health schemes designed to help people to live longer are creating more problems than they are solving, writes Tim Footman in The Guardian.


An acquaintance who works in medicine informed me that if all the smokers in the UK gave up, "the NHS would collapse."

Her argument was that it costs less to treat someone aged 50 who dies from lung cancer in 18 months, than someone of 90 who has spent the previous two decades "slowly fading away" from a variety of illnesses.

Although research from Holland has provoked media headlines such as: "Healthy people place biggest burden on state" it does not take into account "the overall social costs and lost opportunities of poor health."

However, health schemes which encourage people to give up smoking and take more exercise might add an additional forty years to how long a person can live, but the question must be asked if whether that person will have any quality of life.

Public health initiatives are promoted as saving lives - this is incorrect. They are simply "postponing deaths". People who do not die at a young age from an illness caused by their lifestyle will die when they are older from something else.

Why are we telling people they should live longer in the first place? Is it to make certain that they can "support the baby boom generation"?

This will just add fuel to the fire, because the thirty-year-olds who do not "die off" will place a burden on the yonger generations who must look after them.

The poet Arthur Hugh Clough wrote: "Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive officiously to keep alive." Although he was joking, there is an inadvertent truth to his words.


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