If the unvaccinated should pay for their own healthcare, then why not smokers, addicts, and obese people?

Would Winnipeg gastroenterologist Dr. Charles Bernstein argue that obese people or smokers should be barred from entering grocery stores and supermarkets?

John Carpay Calgary AB

Would Financial Post columnist Diane Francis argue that smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts and the obese should be denied publicly funded health care, and forced to pay for their medical treatment out-of-pocket?

These groups of people, after all, "strain health-care systems and force hospitals to postpone surgeries or turn away Canadians who need treatment for other illnesses." As Ms. Francis puts it: "In a single-payer health-care system like Canada’s, it is only fair and prudent" to "make people pay for the burden they impose on the system" when making unhealthy choices.

Nobody should be permitted to burden taxpayers "with the medical costs you incur because of your own irresponsibility." "Public health measures should not be confused with freedom of choice or rights," argues Ms. Francis. If you fall ill because of your own choice, "nobody else should have to pay for your personal negligence and irresponsibility."

Would Winnipeg gastroenterologist Dr. Charles Bernstein argue that obese people or smokers should be barred from entering grocery stores and supermarkets?

Surely these people should shoulder "the added cost and inconvenience" of grocery delivery, "instead of letting them drain health-care resources" for preventable illnesses. As Dr. Bernstein puts it: "They’re going to use up hospital services and… ruin it for the rest of us." Is Dr. Bernstein aware that in Manitoba, smoking—to consider just one of the unhealthy personal choices listed above—causes 2,000 deaths a year, whereas just over 800 deaths in Manitoba were linked to COVID-19 in 2020?

According to the Manitoba government, a whopping 50 percent of smokers in Manitoba will die from a tobacco-related illness, costing the provincial health care system $244 million annually. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Manitoba. So why is Dr. Bernstein not calling for smoking to be banned, and for smokers to be punished for draining health-care resources?

As both Health Canada and the Center for Disease Control explain it, obesity increases risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. All of these diseases, caused or exacerbated by obesity, are costing taxpayers huge swaths of money. Following the reasoning of Diane Francis and Dr. Bernstein, this money could be better spent on the good Canadians who exercise regularly and eat healthy foods in moderation.

Have Dr. Bernstein and Diane Francis considered the fact that obese people are far more likely to end up in hospital with COVID? According to the CDC, having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID infection. Obesity decreases lung capacity and is linked to impaired immune function, both very unhelpful when fighting COVID.

Further, the CDC states that being a current or former cigarette smoker can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID. It also seems to be ignored that, as a result of lockdowns and their vast collateral damage, alcoholism and drug overdoses are on the rise, burdening the health care system. Both Dr. Bernstein and Diane Francis seem to believe that there are good COVID patients and bad COVID patients. The latter should be punished for their bad choices, in their view.

In fact, Diane Francis directed her venom and Dr. Bernstein directed his vitriol not at the obese or smokers—or any other group burdening the healthcare system because of their own unhealthy choices—but at Canadians who decline the new COVID vaccines. Ms. Francis argues that the vaccine-free should pay for their own medical costs, and Dr. Bernstein argues that the vaccine-free should be banned from grocery stores. Banning people from grocery stores is immoral and will generally impact the poor who cannot afford home deliveries. Further, access to food is considered a fundamental human right by the United Nations. If the Manitoba government accepts Dr. Bernstein's advice, many unvaccinated Manitobans who are impoverished or who live in rural areas will face starvation if they cannot access grocery stores.

Ms. Francis and Dr. Bernstein are repudiating the ethical principle of informed and voluntary consent established by the Nuremberg Code. They are selectively arguing for government discrimination against one group of people, completely ignoring the fact that there are countless unhealthy choices made by millions of Canadians every day, with many of these decisions directly costing taxpayers dearly.

Dr. Bernstein and Ms. Francis also ignore the well-established fact that COVID vaccines do not stop COVID spread, as stated publicly by health authorities and by the vaccine manufacturers themselves. Public statements by public health officials are confirmed by the experiences of Israel, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom where vaccination rates as high as 100 percent are not stopping the spread of COVID, nor do they prevent people from catching COVID and dying from it.

Nobody disputes that the new COVID vaccines have not been subjected to any long-term safety testing. Nobody seriously questions that about 80 percent of COVID deaths in Canada have been amongst elderly people in nursing homes who were already very sick with multiple serious conditions. No Canadian government, federal or provincial, has put forward persuasive evidence to support the claim that COVID threatens everyone; the governments' own data and statistics tell us the opposite.

Since the COVID vaccine does not stop COVID spread, there is little if any medical or scientific basis for vaccine passports, let alone denying medical care and the right to shop for groceries to Canadians who legitimately exercise their Charter right to bodily autonomy. Are Ms. Francis and Dr. Bernstein willing to take a consistent position, and advocate for the denial of publicly funded healthcare to smokers, alcoholics, drug users and the obese?

John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca).


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