Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Update on Smoker Denied Surgery for Broken Ankle

The following update was kindly provided by Maryetta Ables, President of FORCES:

When FORCES was made aware of the John Nuttall case of surgery being denied by the British National Health Service, a decision was made to contact Mister Nuttall and ask for his permission to do a "John Nuttall Fund Raiser" on his behalf to pay for his ankle surgery privately.


We contacted Mr. Nuttall last week and he requested a week to consider our offer.

Upon communication with Mister Nuttall on October 2nd, he has told us he has decided to decline the offer made by FORCES International at this time. Mister Nuttall did indicate that he is not done fighting with the National Health Service.

Mister Nuttall graciously explained that, "I have decided not to take up your offer yet. I want to make the NHS pay for it. After all, I've paid my taxes and should be covered."

He went on to say, "It's just not right, that they should get away with denying care after collecting the taxes."

Mister Nuttall stated that, "It is my conscientious position that NHS should be paying and no one else." Mister Nuttall also expressed his feelings of humility and gratefulness in reaction to advocacy on his behalf and the public's offers to donate the money needed to pay for his surgery.

Mister Nuttall also indicated that last evening there was a program on British television with Trevor McDonald which reported on the NHS's ducking out on smokers and obese persons. He felt that, "The show should have opened a few people's eyes to the situation." He is hoping for more public support towards changing NHS policies.

"I just don't see why they should get away with it," he said. "They are not supplying a service I've paid for all my life." The NHS will not even consider the surgery: "They just say no. They just won't talk to you."

The offer from FORCES was prompted by public outrage, and at the specific suggestion of Boston University Professor Michael Siegel, MD. Doctor Siegel recommended at his web site that a major organization in defense of smokers should take up a fund collection.

FORCES answered unhesitatingly, viewing the circumstances as clearly egregious, and the need urgent. Purely from a standpoint of compassion and human decency Mister Nuttall most certainly requires and deserves prompt and proper medical attention. There are besides several elements of his story that come under the specific guidance of our organization's Constitution.

Firstly, this is an issue of human rights. No person should be denied medical care, especially when he is legitimately covered by insurance, in the UK an essentially mandated form of insurance.

Secondly, this is an issue of medical and scientific ethics and practice. Our organization closely examines and openly exposes the flawed methodology of "scientific studies" which commonly and fraudulently exaggerate risks of smoking in service of an anti-smoking movement which some time ago became fanatically prohibitionist.

Specifically regarding Mister Nuttall's case, it simply beggars belief that a man should not receive corrective treatment for a painfully injured ankle, because he smokes. Common sense tells anyone: what of all our smoking soldiers in our wars, did not many survive greater injuries, and likewise survive the treatments for their injuries? Did they not deserve treatment because they smoked?

Which brings us back to basic compassion. FORCES advocates for human dignity. This is a humanitarian issue. The treatment Mister Nuttall has received deserves the name of contempt; as Doctor Siegel has pointed out it may also be called a breach of fundamental medical ethics which reach back to the Hippocratic Oath. We sometimes take great issue with Michael Siegel but who could here?

Mister Nuttall repeatedly expressed his gratitude for the gestures and offers of support he has received from strangers around the world. He is amazed that so many would care about him and support him in his indignation at the National Health Service. That support still holds and will continue to hold as we watch his further battles with the NHS.

We admire his principle. John says accepting the offered donations would be "the easy way out," that if he accepted, "they (the NHS) walk away without spending a penny of what I paid into the system, and that's what annoys me." Well-wishes from the internet were relayed to Mister Nuttall since he has no computer. He in turn asked us to relate his thanks to the people "out there" who cared enough to want to help a stranger.

We wish to impress that Mister Nuttall's experience is by no means unique or even unusual; in fact it is well within the "norm" for the NHS as is reflected in two pieces recently appearing about patients in hospice care and regarding cancer patients. Many are being adversely affected by the NHS system, finding recourse quite as difficult, as has John Nuttall.

We will keep our readers updated as information becomes available.

The Rest of the Story

Although he has decided not to accept this offer on grounds of principle, it is clear that the compassion and generosity of Rest of the Story readers, FORCES members, and all those who were concerned about his plight has made a huge impression on Mr. Nuttall, and has truly lifted his spirits. I will continue to highlight this and other related stories about the uncompassionate denial of medical care to individuals. Thanks to Walt for initially bringing this to my attention, and for all those who offered to donate money or just expressed their concern.

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