Saturday, March 01, 2014

Regulations Against Common Sense

You've heard it countless times, that smoking will kill you. Don't smoke. It's bad for your health. It takes years off your life.

So imagine the outrage when Ireland' s health service bureaucrats discovered no less than three people in their 90s who were puffing away in their Co. Offaly nursing home. Their ages fly in the face of the dire warnings and it won't be long before someone makes a cheeky remark about government control and what's so bad about the occasional ciggie if these geriatrics are still going strong.

Here's to your smoking ban, HSE
What would happen if word of this longevity filtered out of Offaly and down to Dublin? Youngsters all across the nation would be lighting up in defiance, because clearly HSE was wrong about their declarations. Then it's pure smoking anarchy.

In keeping with the ever-spreading ban on smoking, HSE has decreed that smoking will be forbidden in nursing homes, the law taking effect next week.

So those three smokers in the County Offaly nursing home? They're going to have to quit.

When you hit ninety, you'd imagine there's little to look forward to beyond the occasional drink and a cigarette to go with it. And if you've been a smoker who has lived that long, would you want to go on living if you couldn't have a few puffs from time to time?

The families of those geriatrics have taken their case to the HSE, to have an exception made for their elderly relations. Anyone who's tried it, or been around someone in the throes of withdrawal, realize that smoking is nearly impossible to stop. It seems cruel of the government to demand that three of its citizens just up and quit, as if that wouldn't have a damaging effect on their health.

And what's the harm? For Christ's sake, these people have surely earned the right to smoke rather than be made to suffer the pangs of nicotine withdrawal. Is it being done because HSE can't afford to pay someone to haul the old folks to a permitted smoking location outside, a couple of times a day? Is HSE afraid that dragging them out in all sorts of weather would result in someone coming down with pneumonia and then dying because of some bureaucratic insanity?

Not a pretty picture for the HSE. Better to force the elderly to suffer quietly, craving that cigarette after dinner for the pleasure it brings, when there's precious little pleasure in being stuck in a nursing home, waiting to die. These are regulations we're talking about here, and as any government paper-pusher can tell you, regulations must be carried out without exceptions unless those exceptions are spelled out legally.

To prevent HSE from looking utterly ridiculous or petty, Edenderry Councillor Noel Cribbin has taken up the case and is working with HSE to grant that legally approved exception.

Why not treat the elderly with respect and give them some allowances to ease the misery of getting old and ending up in a nursing home where you have no control over your last dies because you're at the mercy of a government agency that doesn't have common sense written into its rules.

Letting three old folks have a cigarette once in a while won't convince everyone that smoking isn't bad for your health. But making them quit might convince people that the HSE is bad for their health and those who run it are in need of replacing.

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