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« The erosion of tolerance and the freedom to choose | Main | 40 years of hurt - the persecution of smokers »

BBC presenter defends freedom to make 'bad choices'

I shall be on LBC shortly talking to Nick Ferrari about comments made by BBC presenter Michael Buerk.

According to the Press Association:

Veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk has said that obese people should be given the choice to indulge if they wish, and that they are "weak, not ill".

The BBC presenter said that those who are obese may be making a "selfless sacrifice" to stop the country being overpopulated if they die a decade earlier than the rest of the population.

Buerk wrote in the Radio Times magazine that he does not believe obesity should be classed as a disease in a bid to encourage people to seek treatment and to "reduce the stigma (of) fatness", adding that "you're fat because you eat too much".

Naturally, most of the headlines focus on the tongue-in-cheek element of what he wrote:

'Let fat people die to save NHS money, says Michael Buerk' (The Times), 'Michael Buerk suggests NHS could save money by letting obese people die early as a 'selfless sacrifice'' (Daily Mail), 'Ex-BBC man says fat people making 'selfless sacrifice' by dying early' (Daily Star) and so on.

Behind these headlines however are some serious points that apply equally to smoking. For example:

The former I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! star queried Public Health England's claim that overweight and obesity-related ill-health costs the NHS £6.1 billion a year.

He said: "Who can calculate how much an obese person would have cost if they were slim?

"How much would he or she cost if, instead of keeling over with a heart attack at 52, they live to a ripe, dementia-ridden old age, requiring decades of expensive care? (In any case, VAT on takeaways, confectionery and fizzy drinks more than covers it.)"

He added that the "freedom to make bad choices is what personal autonomy, indeed democracy, is all about", and asked "who is to say longevity is the ultimate goal in life?".

Quite right.

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Reader Comments (4)

The cost of obesity is based on the template of cost of smokers. Both are made up to ensure more funding for fat cats in public health. The truth is both cost less than thin people and those who do not smoke.

I would suggest the biggest cost to our health service is the worried well - and the cost of public health that pushes prejudice and propaganda.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Quite agree with Pat. Public Health England and ASH if abolished would save the country a fortune,
People should make their own choices. Get rid of these nasty public health bullies !

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 16:54 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

It is not a "free* society when politics dictates "choice".

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 17:52 | Unregistered Commentergray cooper

Michael Buerk is correct regarding the health resources consumed by the obese. Several studies have supported his speculation. See for example:

'Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers. Obese individuals held an intermediate position.'

Thursday, August 8, 2019 at 12:18 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

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