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Targeting the Self-Abusers

One page in last Wednesday’s issue of Mmegi provided two remarkably contrasting views. The first suggested that the Government could save millions of pula were it to abolish the death penalty, which it almost certainly will not do.

The other denounced the new cost saving health policy, which was recently approved by the Cabinet, which it most certainly intends to implement.

The Government’s sudden concern about cost-cutting comes as a major surprise because in the last year or so, huge sums of money have been wafting around all over the place, buckets full of the stuff. And rather obviously were the Government genuinely concerned about cost recovery it immediately desist from buying fighter jets and tanks from which the country’s two-and-a-half million people gain neither in terms of their welfare or security. But the introduction of this new policy is strangely inconsistent. Much boasted about, not unreasonably, has been the Government’s compassionate and open-hearted push to provide housing and blankets for the poorer of the poor. Now that open heart has been closed with a snap and those deemed to be self-abusers will be obliged to pay the full costs of their medical treatment. Already the new policy, here, has already been roundly denounced, and abroad by the WHO.  The term ‘self-abusers’ covers a wide category of people from the smokers and drug users to drivers when drunk and so on.  Personally, I can see little difference between the drunk driver, and the dangerous driver when both end up killing someone. Why is the one now more guilty than the other? I also much doubt that this policy can be fully implemented because so much of it will depend on the widespread availability of trained personnel willing to make, timeously, the necessary judgements.

Treatment cannot reasonably be denied for an unconscious injured person whilst due enquiry is being made. Should they be left to die until they can shake up and produce the cash? But I also assume that implementing the policy will lead to a string of Court cases, which the Government is very likely to lose. Was the Attorney General, I wonder, consulted before there was this rush to punish those who fall by the wayside? But then again, it is worth wondering how this urge to punish can be understood as being consistent with the Christian faith or probably other faiths well? It will be interesting to see how the Churches now react.

Only few of us are perfect. Indeed whilst meeting and knowing a number of wonderful people,

I much doubt that I have ever met one who regarded himself/herself as perfect. Yet this is a policy, which creates a division between those of us who are deemed to be perfect and unlikely ever to fail and those who, sometimes through no fault of their own, have fallen by the wayside. It is also a policy, which totally overlooks the Government’s own role and responsibility. For instance, take the alcohol levy now standing at 55%, I believe. The idea was, we were told, to use this cash to help alcoholics, the boozers, to dry out and perhaps the drug addicts and those suffering with depression to be given proper help. But what happened? Nobody in Government has indicated how this now enormous sum has been used, but there appears to be nothing to show that even a small fraction has been committed to the purposes originally and supposedly intended.

Also, it may be asked how the list of self-abusers can reasonably include those who may have smoked long before the Government even realised that smoking is harmful and long before it began to warn people of these dangers. Seemingly, those who are obese must be placed in the same category. If the Government has done nothing of any significance to organise campaigns to educate people about obesity and deal with the problems caused by junk food, it does seem extraordinarily perverse now to punish those who need treatment because of their obesity. Surely it is the Government, which should take some share of the blame because of its failure to take needed action? Many of us though, must wonder how a policy of this kind could be approved by some of those present who must surely have had serious misgivings about it?

The Minister herself may not have been aware that its introduction would go down badly with WHO, but the Permanent Secretary, as a career medical/health professional could not have been unaware. Did she advise and was ignored? Or did she find it more expedient to keep quiet? And how is it possible that she should now be implementing a policy, which must, surely, be morally and professionally repugnant to her? Either way, it will be inevitably those two who will now be in the very front line.

Etcetera II



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