Saturday, 23 June 2007

What's wrong with the BMA?

On its website, the British Medical Association (BMA) says that it:
- is a voluntary professional association of doctors
- speaks for doctors at home and abroad,
- provides services for its members
- is an independent trade union
- is a scientific and educational body
- is a publisher
- is a limited company, funded largely by its members.
Now, it will be noted that nowhere in there does it profess to be an advocate for nanny statism, or for abortion. Clearly, this is some vast oversight, as two stories in today's Telegraph illustrate:

The first tells how the BMA, whose paternalistic attitudes in respect of alcohol I have already documented here and here, will next Tuesday debate a motion at its annual conference calling for a ban on alcohol consumption in the street, as well as for the minimum age for purchasing alcohol to be raised to 21, except in pubs and hotels. As I've said before, I doubt that the latter measure will have any great effect - most children of even 13 or 14 can get hold of alcohol if they really want to, so I doubt that 19 and 20 year olds would find it problematic. I would say that banning alcohol consumption in the street is unlikely to have much effect either: after all, it's surely not that difficult for people to go indoors.
Dr Christopher Spencer-Jones, who seems to be one of a great number of meddling physicians with nothing better to do than instruct the poor benighted populace in personal betterment, suggests that alcohol should be sold in separate departments of supermarkets, and purchased at separate cash desks. As the old quack puts it:
We should stop having alcohol for sale in supermarkets alongside foodstuffs. If you had different doors and cash desks for alcohol in supermarkets, you would be signalling alcohol is not a safe foodstuff.
If you put it in a different environment you can have messages around safe and responsible drinking.
Clearly he's not a grammarian, but if his point was expressed with crystal clarity it would still be wrong. Does he really think that the public are so stupid that they believe that drinking vodka will produce the same effects as drinking Ribena? Apparently so. And does he also believe that sticking alcoholic beverages in a little side-room, with messages telling people to moderate their drinking, will actually make them more likely to do so? So it seems. And is he right on either of these points? No, of course not. The public know that drinking too much alcohol is bad, which is why most of us don't do it too often. However, we are also adults, who can exercise choice in the matter, with or without Dr Spencer-Jones's wagging finger pointing at us.

However, while the BMA seems desperately keen to do all it can to reduce the actually rather mild social evil of binge drinking, it cares rather less about the huge social evil of abortion. For on Wednesday, the Lib Dem MP and former GP Evan Harris will propose a motion to the BMA conference calling for nurses and midwives to be allowed to carry out abortions on demand, without those women receiving the abortion ever speaking to a doctor. Given that at present around a quarter of conceptions end in abortion, one would hope that doctors, with their supposed commitment to the sanctity of life, would wish to make abortions more - not less - difficult to obtain.

So, there you have it: the BMA favours treating adults like children if they want to have a few beers, but considers that 193,700 dead babies each year is too few. What any of this has to do with the BMA's stated purposes, as listed above, is unclear to me: the BMA exists to look after the interests of its members, not to promote the politics of the left. Sadly, like so many other professional and trade organisations, it seems to have forgotten this.

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