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The right to be different

MagazineOctober 2002 (Vol. 13 Issue 7)The right to be different

Something strange and dangerous is happening all over the Western world

Something strange and dangerous is happening all over the Western world.


Bit by stealthy bit, freedoms that we have taken for granted are being eroded - ironically, in the name of safeguarding health and liberty.


In America, where I recently visited, the government is incarcerating thousands of people merely on suspicion, but with no proof, of sedition, ostensibly to catch the would-be terrorist. Europe is busy dismantling alternative medicine and thereby eroding your freedom of choice in healthcare.


And now, in Great Britain, the most dangerous freedom of all is about to be taken away from you - the right to be different, even the right to disagree.


The Labour government, with Tony Blair's tacit approval, is planning legislation that will allow doctors and the entire medical profession a far more elastic definition of sanity.


The plan is to revise the Mental Health Act of 1983 to a new Mental Health Bill. The most worrying aspect of this revision is the proviso that 'any disability or disorder of mind or brain which results in an impairment or disturbance of mental functioning' will now be deemed a 'mental disorder'.


Basically, this broad-sweep bill will now give legal sanction for the doctor not only to make a full determination of your sanity, but to forcibly enter the home of any person he considers insane and drug that person against his will.


You can see where this is heading. Insanity could be deemed to be any position which runs contrary to established medical practice. To the doctor conditioned to view vaccination as a lifesaver, you, as an opponent of the MMR vaccine, could arguably be considered insane, and drugged against your will while your children are vaccinated.


If you'd like to have a home birth and the doctor considers you a 'high-risk' patient, he'd have the power to drag you into the hospital and knock you out before proceeding with a drug-based birth. If you have cancer and decide to opt out of the usual slash-and-burn solution of medicine, the doctor could have you legally committed and administer this treatment against your will.


If this new piece of legislation had been in effect, Harold Shipman would have been able to declare open season on his entire patient list - and get away with it.


With this definition of insanity, any reasoned decision of yours to forego the vast arsenal of drugs and surgery favoured by modern medicine as the only solution to illness could be considered a mental illness, requiring medical treatment. Through such devious means, adults, who currently enjoy the freedom to decline any sort of medicine even if their decision results in death, would lose their basic right to say no.


These kinds of laws are the stuff of the Stalinist state, where anyone opposed to the decisions of authority was deemed to be mentally disordered and promptly shipped off to the Gulag. It's the basic building block of a government which wishes to outlaw the right of disagreement with the State. It is all the more shocking that this legislation is being mooted in a country that has always applauded and safeguarded the right to be different. It signals the end of the most basic of democracies.


As with all these bills and referendums, the timing is always deliberately tight. We have little more than two weeks (until 16 September) to voice our views before a final bill is prepared. Write in with your reasoned and courteous protest about this most objectionable bill (you can find out more about the bill at www.health.gov.uk).


If this most basic healthcare freedom falls, all other freedoms will follow.


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