Can the NHS afford to treat self-inflicted illnesses?

22 June 2009

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On Monday 22 June, Oxford University launched its latest online Oxford Debates, with Dr Mark Sheehan, James Martin Research Fellow at the Programme on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, arguing that 'The NHS should not treat self-inflicted illness'.

According to research released earlier this month, smoking costs the NHS more than £5bn a year. That is 5.5% of the entire NHS budget. A separate paper published earlier this year found that dealing with incidents and disease involving alcohol consumption costs £3bn a year, while obesity accounts for a further £1bn. Treating these self-inflicted illnesses is stretching NHS resources to breaking point. Dr Sheehan asserts in his opening statement for the Debate that “the freedom to choose to live in a certain way brings with it responsibilities — here, responsibilities for the consequences of our choices.

Oxford Online Debates are a termly event, in which two leading Oxford academics debate a topic of public and academic interest over a five-week period, giving the public an opportunity to interact with scholars at the forefront of their field and to engage with controversial topics over an extended period of time. Dr Sheehan's motion is opposed by Charles Foster, a barrister and associate fellow of Green Templeton College. The debate will be moderated by Dr Paula Boddington.

The debate begins online at on Monday 22 June. The public can post comments online throughout the debate, and the debate will conclude with a public vote between 13-17 July.

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