I find it interesting that, for once, something that I wrote about earlier (in November to be precise) is now being picked up by the mainstream media.
In Nanny Bans Fat People II I noted that:
"The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (perversely named NICE) have issued guidelines that suggest that medical help could be refused to heavy drinkers, smokers and those who are overweight."
Now it seems that NICE issued a formal report on Thursday repeating that message. NICE, which advises on the clinical and cost effectiveness of treatments for the NHS, said that in some cases the "self-inflicted" nature of an illness should be taken into account.
Nice stressed that people should not be discriminated against by doctors, simply because they smoked or were overweight. Its ruling should apply only if the treatment was likely to be less effective, or not work because of an unhealthy habit.
Nice is a powerful body, primary care trusts regularly wait for many months for a Nice decision before agreeing to fund a new treatment.
Thursday's report, Social Value Judgment - Principles for the development of Nice guidance, said no priority should be given to patients based on income, social class or social roles at different ages when considering the cost effectiveness of a treatment.
Patients should not be discriminated against on the grounds of age either, unless age has a direct relevance to the condition.
However, the report said that if self-inflicted factors meant that drugs or treatment would be less clinically and cost-effective, this may need to be considered when producing advice for the NHS; ie they will ration treatment.
The report said:
"If the self-inflicted cause of the condition will influence the likely outcome of a particular treatment,
then it may be appropriate to take this into account in some circumstances."
NICE noted that it can be difficult to decide whether an illness, such as a heart attack, was self-inflicted in a smoker.
"A patient's individual circumstances may only be taken into account when there will be an impact on the clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment."
Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said:
"There is no excuse for cash-strapped hospitals denying treatment to people whose lifestyle they disapprove of.
Treatment decisions involving people's lifestyle should be based on clinical reasons, not grounds of cost.
The NHS is there to keep people healthy, not to sit in judgment on individual lifestyles."
A spokesman for Nice said:
"The only circumstances where that (treatment) may be taken into account is where that treatment may be less effective because of lifestyle choices."
Remember, you read it here first!