on blaming victims

from Ian Kennedy's 1980 Reith Lecture, just rolling past on random play. This is nothing exciting — totally basic public health stuff, the same thing Goldacre was saying about "the deserving poor" — I'm just saving the quote for potential reference when discussing nudges and "encouraging" modal shift and that sort of thing. Unless I can find somebody who said it all better…

Next, modern medicine has come to recognise that a large measure of modern illness which is not related to genetic disability is the product of our behaviour and our environment. The main reasons for chronic illness and death are heart and respiratory ailments, cancer and strokes, with accidents contributing a large share also. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, appalling dietary habits, dangerous workplaces and roads are heavily implicated. Unable to do anything about these conditions, government and medical men have resorted to the apologia that they can???t do anything till people change. This has been called the syndrome of blaming the victim. For example, the last resort of those faced with the carnage of lung cancer is to say: ???We???ve done our best. We???ve shown the link between smoking and cancer of the lung. It???s just that people won???t stop smoking.??? People are castigated as feckless or irresponsible. They eat the wrong foods, they drink too much. Pregnant women won???t use the antenatal services available. People just won???t take care of themselves. This may appear to let medicine off the hook but what is lost or ignored is the fact that the victim, the one whose life patterns are responsible for his illness, is a product of his environment and often can do little to shape or control it. You can only make the right choices as to food or lifestyle if you have the proper information, if you have the appropriate health education from an early age and if you have the power or capacity to implement your choice.

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