Patients needing emergency NHS treatment after becoming drunk or incapacitated by drugs would be charged under proposals yesterday from Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman.You know, aside from this very last bit, I actually agree. I really fail to see why the taxpayer should fund the treatment of those who use up valuable resources through their own vice and stupidity. I recall that on the one occasion when I was unfortunate enough to find myself in A&E, the room was filled with the sound of drunken idiots, and a nurse told me that I was the only person in there who was not there as a result of alcohol or drugs. And this was a Tuesday night - imagine what it must be like on a Friday or a Saturday. No, as far as I'm concerned the taxes that we pay entitle us to free NHS treatment when we fall ill through natural circumstances which are no fault of our own. When, on the other hand, we fall ill entirely as a result of our own actions, then we are imposing a burden on the NHS that we could quite easily have avoided imposing, and we, not the taxpayer, should bear the cost of that.
The plan is one of a series of policy shifts in a strategy paper he published before the party's annual conference in Brighton next week. Mr Lamb said: "If you get rat-arsed on a Friday night and get taken to A&E where you are foul and abusive to staff, is it right for the taxpayers to fund your life-saving treatment?"He called for wide public debate on whether the community should pay for the excesses of the individual. There was a strong case for charging drunks for stomach pumps or treatment of injuries, and pubs and clubs should also be made to contribute if their complicity could be proven.
Why do I disagree with that last bit, about pubs and clubs also being obliged to contribute? Well, basically, because it's not their fault if their customers drink too much. It is not unreasonable to expect individuals to exercise self-control, and, indeed, the Lib Dem proposals seem designed to promote the idea of personal responsibility. Thus, if you go into a pub, and have a drink, you are responsible for seeing that you exercise self-control in the amount of alcohol you consume. This is your personal responsibility, and not that of anyone else, including the person who supplies alcohol to you. To suggest that pubs and clubs should bear part of the responsibility if a drunk injures himself is to deny or reduce the personal responsibility of that drunk for his actions.