Lifestyle choices and responsibility for our healthcare – whose hands is it in?

by Jane Keep, Phd, Mphil, MSc, FCIPD, MIC, CMgr, FCMI, London

A while ago, a healthcare organisation in the UK made a decision that it would no longer treat patients who are obese or who smoke – unless they have been/are on a programme to do something about it. This caused quite a disturbance at the time, in that many felt this was unfair and discriminatory. This tactic has been tried before, and each time it causes a bristle of comments, discussion and reactions.

The NHS in England has always been ‘free to patients at the point of delivery’ so whilst there is no charge for treatment, there has always been struggles to resource the NHS to be able to treat all the patients that need treating. In recent years the numbers of those needing care have escalated, and the NHS is now bursting at the seams and in financial deficit.

If we look at this further – ‘according to the Hippocratic tradition, the guiding principle for physicians is “first do no harm,” or non-maleficence, which is closely followed by the obligation to “do good,” or beneficence’.(1) It has been stated that ‘irrespective of the “rightness” of smoking behavior, physicians have a duty to offer all patients appropriate care and supportive care and to help their patients become tobacco free.’(1) This means that ‘physicians are discouraged from refusing treatment simply because they disagree with their patients’ decisions or lifestyles’.(1)

But, what if this decision is made, not on the basis of whether someone disagrees with a lifestyle choice, but on the basis of other considerations:

  • The NHS has finite resources that are so stretched now and the deficit continues to mount, and there simply isn’t enough resource to go around or to meet the ever-increasing demand on illness and disease.
  • There are many articles that show how lifestyle does affect our health and wellbeing – smoking and obesity (or rather sugar and other factors related to obesity) are part of these studies.(2) So dealing with the lifestyle ‘elephant in the room’ rather than patching up and treating illness would and could help wellbeing more sustainably.

For well over a decade the NHS has been promoting ‘Self Management’(3) of chronic illness and disease, in a bid to hand back responsibility for wellbeing, and the management of chronic conditions back to patients. This has not really taken off in the mainstream NHS and remains on the periphery.

Why is this? Why are we unwilling to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, and to take part in the management of our own illness and disease?

We have health services that are under severe pressure with finite resources and increasing rates of illness and disease and multi-morbidity – a combination that spells disaster and one that we can ill afford.

We know that lifestyle is a major factor in the reason for the rising rates of illness and disease, and with this comes the responsibility we have for our own lives and how they affect not just us, but others too. At what point could organisations like the NHS take a stance – knowing that lifestyle is such a key factor? And what stance could or should it take?

More so, if we all started to observe the way we are living our own lives, and the responsibility we currently do or don’t take for ourselves, we not only support ourselves, but in doing that, we will be supporting the health service – and our fellow brothers in humanity – as, if we decrease our own burden on the health services, we allow others, more sick or elderly, access to the care they need.

And in addition, we may just find we have the key to our own health and vitality:

The moment you stop and ask yourself –

why do I live like this?

Why do I eat and or drink this way?

And, why do I self-sabotage so much?

–you have opened yourself up to recognising

the possible root cause of your ill ways.

Following through on the questions alone will

Begin the much-needed changes.

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings and Revelations: A new study for mankind. Unimed publishing 2011. 


So what if the key to health service reform and improving health and wellbeing rests more in our hands than we currently like to believe or consider?

What if, simply by taking full responsibility for our own lifestyle choices, we can bring untold benefits to our own health and wellbeing and significantly reduce the burden on our pressurised health services – well worth considering?



  1. Can Physicians Refuse Treatment to Patients Who Smoke? Timothy M. Pawlik, MD, MPH, Ian N. Olver, MD, PhD, Courtney D. Storm, JD, MBE, and Maria Alma Rodriguez, MD
  1. Serge Benhayon (2011) Esoteric Teachings and Revelations: A new study for mankind. Unimed Publishing




841 thoughts on “Lifestyle choices and responsibility for our healthcare – whose hands is it in?

  1. if physicians have a duty to offer all patients appropriate care and supportive care then surely action that helps another stop the self harm is a crucial part of this duty.

  2. A powerful snapshot of how we sabotage the way we eat. What is interesting is the willingness to go there in the first place. This takes a lot of responsibility or a realisation that what we thought was working isn’t any more with the onset of disease and illness. In many cases we are buying time that no doubt catches up with us one way or another. This itself is already showing with the vast rates of global crisis management in hospital worldwide.

  3. ‘So what if the key to health service reform and improving health and wellbeing rests more in our hands than we currently like to believe or consider?’ To begin to really ask ourselves honestly why we make the choices we make is a really awesome start to considering the active part we play in our own health and how ill health manifests. It would be a real game changer to have this educated in schools and the work place!

    1. Yes – if WHO and the NHS and other health related organisations had a campaign ‘our health is in our hands’ it could be a game changer – when we realise even the smallest of change in our responsibility can make quite a difference – from hydration, to exercise, stretching, posture, rest, sleeping and so much more – and all these steps have the potential to build a deeper awareness, and a deeper relationship with our body.

      1. I love this Jane. Just taking one of your examples above could save the NHS millions. The bigger illnesses and diseases manifest from the smallest detail in lifestyle choice. If everyone paid attention to posture how much could be saved in physiotherapy alone, and as you say, let alone the deeper awareness around ones more insidious choices that could then be changed?!

  4. Where I currently work the hospital close by has vending machines that are operated on a contract by Coca Cola, this very fact shows to me that widespread changes to healthier practices will require the will of the people, as industry will put on their game face, pretend to care about health, but only when profit is affected will true change to healthcare in the food and drink we consume come our way. We have complete responsibility for our health, and we have to accept this and the fact there are always going to be businesses that will only change in the face of the one thing they care about – profit.

    1. And, while we are still at some level satisfied or looking for Coca Cola products then we are buying into that ‘profit’ making way that many companies work in. If we started to say no to those products, not just because they aren’t great for our health, but because those companies aren’t run in a way that cares truly about humanity – then things could start to change. Every moment we have a choice in the way we live our lives and our daily living choices – it is through these daily living choices that we can and do make a difference not just to our health but to many other things – there is always a ripple effect.

      1. The ripple effect is very powerful in our current climate as it is this that leads the consumer market. If you don’t by the product there is nothing to sell. It is so easy to get caught on the band wagon of what is not fair and right and how manipulation can drive the profit margins of large companies. But how often do we stop to take stock of how we create the demand by the choices we make.

  5. I agree there is a strong belief in society that whatever we do to ourselves and our own health is our business and does not effect anyone else. But the growing health funding crisis is a big wake up call that taking care of our own health extends way beyond our own life and health and actually effects the health of our very societies and civilisations.

  6. It is interesting that the Hippocratic oath states to ‘do no harm’ and this has been interpreted to mean continue to offer healthcare, regardless of how responsible the patient is being with their own health. But what if this approach was actually encouraging or fuelling the irresponsibility by removing, reducing or softening the consequences? Then it could be said that this approach may in fact be harmful in that it does not also support someone to change their self harming behaviours. Something to consider for everyone in the medical system.

  7. What if denying certain treatment to people who abuse themselves is not “not treating” them but actually offering them exactly what they need ~ a wake up call to take responsibility and better care of themselves.

  8. The starting point that Serge Benhayon offers here in this quote is crucial for our ongoing health. I know I have absolute responsibility for the health of my body and mind and that they are a reflection of the responsibility (or not) that I’ve been willing to take.

  9. Surely it is not discriminatory to distinguish between those who are interested in playing their part in taking care of their health and those who are not interested in playing their part. Those who ignore all health advice and continue to abuse their bodies are the ones who are discriminating against themselves.

  10. With illness and disease rates climbing as they are, there is no doubt that responsibility will have to be held by the patient in the way that they live. In this way they are contributing to their own health rather than expecting a medical system to do the work for them. This is how it should always have been.

  11. We live this precarious walk between not taking responsibility for ourselves and stubbornly refusing to see and act on inspiration from others. It is a kind of stale mate, the effect of which is evident in our health and well-being stats and so simply in our hands to change.

  12. I was having this discussion with some students recently. Many of them agreed that diseases caused by lifestyle choices like type 2 diabetes, obesity and smoking related illnesses should incur a cost to be paid by the patient.

    1. Financial costs do make us stop and think when they are coming more directly out of our own pocket!! I wouldn’t want people to not be able to afford the care or treatment they need but can also see how it could help to make us more aware of our choices and the consequences of those choices… It would be great if we could see this without needing to go down the charging for healthcare route…

    2. How different would our levels of responsibility be if we no longer were able to pull from the public purse?

  13. I ponder on where we lost our way in not looking after our bodies, might this suggest we are being run by behaviour and thoughts that totally override our natural balance.

  14. The seed of our discontent lays in the illness of our ways. We do not want to take responsibility for our ill health because then we will have to admit that we have not honoured the physical body as a vehicle that carries us through life but more so used it as a dumping ground for temporal excesses so that we can continue on our ‘joy’ ride that ultimately always ends in death. If we then dismiss the truth of reincarnation in the sense that we kid ourselves that what we do now will not affect us in the next around, then we are seemingly absolved of the part we play in the greater scheme of things and thus the ultimate responsibility we each have to move in accordance with the pulse of the Universe and not in complete disregard to it.

    1. I agree Liane – I often see posters or t-shirts or mugs with ‘you only got one life, make the most of it’ … etc so play hard – without any sense that there is bigger game at play here – that life is in cycles, reincarnation is part of this, and, there are always consequences and a ripple effect whether we choose to realise that or not. So often we ‘think we have got away with it’ – yet everything always comes back around in one way or another.

  15. I agree, there is only one person responsible for my health and well being – and that’s me. It’s me who chooses what time I get up, how I care for my body, the food I nourish or sabotage it with, the way I breathe, what and when I drink, unlike the NHS’s resources, my choices are infinite and I know without doubt that my every choice affects my health.

  16. There is no doubt and numerous studies that show that some simple steps towards promoting a healthier lifestyle do make a lot of difference, especially things like being overweight, smoking too much, drinking too much alcohol, excessive sugar; so it really shouldn’t be a surprise when we are told that we have a serious illness, and if we survive it, lifestyle changes are always advised. But still in many cases we ignore the advice – this does not seem to be very intelligent.

  17. When we get right down to it, lifestyles are our choices around how to live and the relationship with have with our selves (body) and others. All of our choices impact others, how we talk, are at work, with friends and family and most importantly the relationship we have with our own bodies. If our choices are in disregard to our bodies, we are also in disregard to others.

  18. “So what if the key to health service reform and improving health and wellbeing rests more in our hands than we currently like to believe or consider?” To really consider this point asks us to look at the way we are in how we conduct our lives, the choices we make and for most, including myself up until the point I came to meet Serge, I didn’t want to look at this. Yet it is the key for our entire health system.

    1. I agree MA – it is also key for the way our world is too, not just the health system, but all systems, and the many issues and atrocities we find ourselves in.

  19. It is easy to see what is going on around you, and make reasons for why it is there….but what I feel you are offering the reader, is to go beyond that, and really ask yourself why is that happening. And in your own case, why am I doing that? What do I get out of it? That is where the true gold lies. And the answer to our questions.

  20. Its breaking the habits and patterns that put into motion the unhealthy lifestyle choices that then lead to the body copping the consequences of these habits. When the body is living with a chronic disease, over time this can become accepted as the new ‘normal’ and then a greater amount of responsibility is needed to generate a change in habits and lifestyle patterns. You can see how the inertia and reluctance to change sets in. Yet there always comes a point where there has to and will be a ‘U-turn’ to make steps to change.

  21. ‘Why are we unwilling to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, and to take part in the management of our own illness and disease?’ We don’t want to look at the comfort we live in, what we feed ourselves with – physically and emotionally – and how it keeps us unhealthy and dissatisfied in life.

  22. The NHS has just sent a letter to all doctors advising them to stop prescribing over the counter prescriptions like paracetamol and indigestion aids for simple common ailments. This is going to save millions. They are also looking at prescriptions for gluten free breads, that the NHS pays up to 10 times the price in shops for the same item. Three questions: why waste doctor’s time with common problems; why is the NHS not run like a business when buying and sourcing everything; and where is our part in being responsible for our own health and well being?

  23. The word responsibility commonly comes laden with a rather heavy side order of negativity, burden and effort. All too often it seems we don’t embrace responsibility with all that we are. It has got itself a bad name we might say. But what if responsibility is in fact the doorway to empowerment and in truth, unless we do embrace our power we are choosing to remain victims in life? Perhaps it is time we transformed our definition of the word responsibility to support our own empowerment.

  24. Another cost the NHS incurs is ambulance crews attending weekend drinking bouts in our towns and cities, which has by all accounts become quite the norm – maybe a payment should be charged for every time a person over drinks to the point of being dangerously ill and needs medical assistance. At the end of the day drinking to excess and making yourself ill is self inflicted and can easily be avoided.

  25. I know what it is like to live a very unhealthy existence making one bad lifestyle choice after another, seemingly stuck in a momentum designed to keep me in a rut that was totally acceptable by my friends as they were all doing it to. When you realise that it is as simple as a choice to stop drinking/smoking etc, and the benefits to doing so are endless and the chances of burdening the NHS further are greatly reduced it really is a no brainer. But the big question is really, why do so many of us still do stuff that we know is doing us harm and is almost certainly leading to an illness.

  26. Jane I love this blog and at the same time find it challenging. What it’s asking of us is not a fix, the cure that we often associate with healthcare, but a life long choice and way of living that is deeply loving, supportive and nurturing. It integrates our health into everything, all our movements and gets rid of the them and us. It means we can’t do as we please, or actually we can, but we and all those around us pay the consequences. At the same time it shows the divine power we all have and how we don’t need to end up with a bankrupt system if we all make different choices.

  27. Yes! Brilliant! Why do we make this so difficult, why are we so comfortable handing over the responsibility of our own choices to others. Is that not simply crazy?

  28. Such simple but powerful questions. Why do I live this way? Why am I making this choice? Asking these questions in this way removes the self criticising approach, which actually offers no new way of looking at our choices. They open us up to self loving choices, because we begin to recognise that that the way we are living is not the way.

  29. I discovered Serge Benhayon, when I truly asked what does helping people really mean?

    From my parenting experience I found that it is possible to help too much, which can sabotage my children’s own process of experiencing life. And I feel experience is the way to truly understand things.

    So has our medical system gone too far in helping people? Is it all about making people feel better or about supporting them to evolve in their lives? I had to watch my children go through some painful things, but sometimes discomfort can be the best teacher.

  30. The NHS and other country’s medical services are like shovelling snow while it is snowing. The lifestyle choices people are making is the snow, and we only have one shovel. Our best plan would be to find a way for people to choose a way that is not detrimental to our health!

  31. Without the depth of understanding offered by Universal Medicine about the energetic root cause of illness and disease, they tend to be seen as simply bad luck and/or inconvenience. The patient wants a hassle free quick fix and the medical system is scrambling for a quick and inexpensive way of dealing with the symptoms.

    Meanwhile humanity is getting sicker and sicker. How we are approaching it is clearly not working. But we have keep repeating the same and hoping the results will be magically different. That is not very wise.

  32. The last thing many of us want to admit is that the way we have been living has led to a condition that costs our entire society not just in the financial cost of the healthcare but also in other ways such as the need to take leave off work etc. This is a big ginormous pill to swallow but we should never undervalue or underappreciate how blessed we are to have the support of our health care system for us to heal and have another go at life again. And the best way to appreciate and value such a service is not through thanks or flowers but through truly learning and changing our ways so that the ill does not happen again and we can live more of who we truly are.

  33. I had no idea about the Self Management programme you mentioned and would say it is not something many are aware of or are talking about yet it seems extremely important so thank you so bringing awareness to this issue. However I have and do continually hear in the news just how stretched the NHS is, so stretched that many cracks are now obviously showing. What came to me whilst reading your article is it seems currently there is no strong foundation where change can positively be brought about. The whole NHS system seems tired, stretched (to put it politely), with few resources and lesser money (is the NHS nearly bankrupt? I am not sure with this) and then you have the public who are …. tired, exhausted, anxious, stressed, struggling financially, with illness and dis-ease on the increase so where in all of this can true change be brought about. I guess first we have to see the rot for where and what it truly is (which is pretty much everywhere) then and only then can we have the honesty to address this, not in band aid style but as in what I feel you are asking which is ‘How are we all living?’ as this is the very foundation that needs to be changed and takes zero or little money to do this but way more self-love, self-care, the needed support and commitment for our own health and well-being. Which for me is where Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine come in as this is part of their teachings and way of life which absolutely works.

  34. Our lifestyle has an undeniable effect on our health and it’s essential for us to evolve in the way we approach healthcare in order for true change to occur. We would do well to have more services and education supporting true lifestyle change as a preventative medicine so to speak as well as support for those who are already having symptoms and illnesses.

  35. It is crazy that we let people make themselves ill and just keep throwing every resource possible at them to keep them going. Surely each patient should play their part in taking some responsibility for their own healthcare.

    1. And that we start to ask the questions amongst ourselves, in our healthcare organisations, and in life – why is it this way? how come we are getting so sick even with all the resources, medicines, doctors we have? and, ‘what is my part in it?’

  36. It’s possible that the self care that is taught is done by professionals who do not self care to the level that those they are talking to need to, this means that their advice is more likely to fall on deaf ears or at least not be held as a consistent practise. I know that for years I saw clients as a health practitioner and in the beginning I was still smoking, albeit seldom, and I was drinking alcohol and generally not taking care of myself in a way I would expect of my clients who had some form of illness or disease. We do not have to wait to become ill to begin a clean lifestyle that supports us to have clarity in mind and body and if we work in any area of health would it not be wise to ask ourselves the questions posed in this blog ? We do not just heal ourselves but thousands of others when we live this kind of responsibility.

  37. To enter any doctor’s surgery without asking for a fix /solution is no doubt the future, if we stay open to the possibilities of what is offered with Western and Esoteric Medicine. When we start to take responsibility at looking what is the root cause there is no doubt more to heal and a lot more to appreciate.

  38. I found asking the ‘ why questions ‘ about my life style really helped me to understand why and so in changing my choices, taking responsibility for my health and wellbeing.

  39. It is time we saw health in a completely different way and started truly taking responsibility for it!

  40. When it comes down to it… Self responsibility is possibly the only thing that will stop healthcare systems around the world grinding to an inexorable halt with the overload of irresponsibility that is endemic.

    1. I agree Cjames – unless we take responsibility for our health our healthcare systems will combust as demand will outstrip supply (as it already has in many services).

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