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

by HR professional in healthcare, 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




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

  1. If we consider humanity as a whole body, it makes clear that every one of us as a little cell of that body has something to do in its illness or health.

  2. In the end of all, we are not randomly ill. When we are willing to consider the effect our choices play in the whole we are part of, we clearly find the thread that brought us to one point or another. Then, we recover the authority to make the changes that are needed to have another result.

  3. Definitely worth considering that last question. I am coming face to face with a part of social care that is really challenging my beliefs. Which is great because if I have any beliefs I can question them and in effect lessen my reactions to the system, the very same energy, just a different flavor, that’s maintaining the whole thing in the first place.

  4. What has been presented here is worth investigating, why is our health care system on the brink of breaking point, if it isn’t already. There is this vicious cycle of poor lifestyle choices that affects the health and wellbeing of the bodies and when it breaks down, it requires support from pharmaceuticals and/or medical/surgical support. Whilst the person takes some or little care of themselves.

    I have known a handful of health care professionals who have gone to the extreme of gastric banding or other surgeries to reduce their stomachs, only to continue eating the foods they were eating on the first place. The weight loss is drastic at first, then they plateau and take no responsibility to do anything else to support them.

    Health care systems are to support people, they are not there to fix the underlying causes of the condition. It takes another person to assist with this, and it begins with you first and foremost.

    1. I feel you are onto something here Shushila, that we are as a race of human-beings are not willing to look at the underlying cause of our conditions and I feel unless we start to pick apart why we behave in a way that puts our health at risk then the Health services across the Globe will just buckle under the sheer weight and cost of treating the patient. Then What?
      This is just one example of our ill ways which lead to ill health.
      30.3 million people, or 9.4% of the U.S. population, have diabetes. Diabetes impacts all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, affecting approximately 1.5 million people.
      Diabetes Statistics,
      Is anyone stopping to ask the question how can this be?

  5. It feels like we have this inclination that when something is given to us for free, we just take it for granted. We have every right to have access to health care, but equally, we have to learn to practise our responsibility as well as our right. One cannot go without the other.

    1. Fumiyo, you’re spot on, when we receive things for free, we tend to take it for granted. When we play our part, it is a whole new ball game.

      Everyone has a right to health care, every health care professional also has a right to work in a safe environment too, especially with the increase in violence towards health care professionals on the rise too. Where are their rights? Health and wellbeing is a two way relationship, so it is time to be responsible.

  6. It is definitely worthwhile considering Jane. Also, I wonder, why does it take our health care system to get to bankruptcy for it to start looking at healing with a different approach?

  7. It appears from this article, and many others I have read, that not only is the NHS struggling to keep up financially and practically with the huge demand on its services, but so are many other health systems around the world. And then when I read the information from the WHO that a large percentage of all illnesses and disease are as a result of our life style choices, and so are preventable, it is clear that the majority of humanity are not taking responsibility for the way they live. Just imagine how quickly the health of the world would improve if each and every one of us began to take responsibility for all our choices instead of expecting someone else to fix us when we get sick.

  8. I personally do not feel that it is discriminatory to refuse to treat patients who will not make changes to stop harming themselves and feel that this is inevitably where we are heading. I realise that this is against everything that doctors are taught, but nevertheless I cannot see how we can avoid this as money runs out and we start to see that the annual bail outs we provide to the health services are no longer possible. In bankruptcy, difficult decisions will have to be made.

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