General Question

Stanley's avatar

Does the government have a responsibility to take care of those who refuse to take care of themselves?

Asked by Stanley (189points) May 13th, 2009

Note I didn’t say “can’t take care of themselves”. I think that there is a societal responsiblity for those unable to take care of themselves. I’m talking about those who won’t take care of themselves.

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29 Answers

basp's avatar

Right now the government does not take care of those who do not seek the assistance. The exception being those declared mentally incompetent.
I feel a moral and ethical obligation to help others but I am also respectful of self determination.

skfinkel's avatar

I would suggest that your distinction is not a real one. If a person won’t take care of himself, I suspect that he can’t. The reason may not be obvious, but it is there just the same.

BookReader's avatar

…it is balanced by those who need help but refuse it… some people don’t take great issue against being underwing, while others would rather die trying to fly with a broken wing…it’s all good…

Harp's avatar

Under our current health care system based on private insurance, eveybody pays for those who refuse to take care of their health by smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, etc. The cost of their health care is passed on to all the rest of us in one way or another. But those costs are much greater under the current system than they would be under a nationalized system.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Is that more offensive to our sensibilities than the government handing out billions to irresponsible businesses?

wundayatta's avatar

Are you your brother’s keeper, or not?

I may be an atheist, but there are some good ideas in various religions.

We are the government. It is not separate from us. You might feel separate, but you aren’t.

Our “brothers” are everyone we share this land with.

I believe we do have a responsibility to take care of everyone who shares this polity, whether we think they are lazy or not. Why? We never know when the positions will be reversed. If we band together to protect each other, it’s like insurance. No fault insurance. We don’t have to waste time and psychic energy assigning blame. If we have to assess who is lazy and who isn’t, we will tear ourselves apart. Conservatives often advocate a point of view like this, because they really have no clue.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I feel a moral and ethical obligation to help others but I am also respectful of self determination.

Great Answer!


I would suggest that your distinction is not a real one. If a person won’t take care of himself, I suspect that he can’t. The reason may not be obvious, but it is there just the same.

I agree

dynamicduo's avatar

Personally I don’t believe the government should. Then again, I also believe that people should be able to opt out of any government whatsoever and go live on their own, but that’ll never happen. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Stanley's avatar

@skfinkel Okay, for example should the government give money and health care to an alcoholic who spends all his money on alcohol and gets his doctor to fill out a form saying he can’t work because he’s drunk all the time. Do you agree with that?

YARNLADY's avatar

Since the entire society is affected when people refuse to take care of themselves, yes, I believe we,(the government)have an obligation to step in. One example here is the homeless live along the river banks, and they pollute the river with their excretment and trash. It is for the benefit of all that we enforce the health and safety requirements.

Stanley's avatar

@YARNLADY Fair enough. No question that it’s a public health hazard for homeless to pollute the water source, so that’s important. Better to give them low cost or free housing. But what about giving them a financial stipend (disability payments)? Or letting them have an MRI for their sore shoulder for free because they refuse to go to therapy?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Stanley The only way to get disability payments is to apply for it, which is the opposite of refusing to take care of yourself. I don’t even get your other example. Isn’t an MRI required as a diagnostic tool before you receive therapy?

I don’t see either of the examples as people refusing to take care of themselves. I think you may be referring to benefits being given to people who are so helpless they can’t make good choices.

Those who truly refuse are the ones standing on the corner in ragged clothes and asking us for money because they won’t go to the proper agencies and apply.

basp's avatar

Regarding your example of giving cash to an alcoholic… The government currently does not do that. One can not receive cash aid based on an addiction. Nor can they receive free health care with that criteria.
I suspect you do not have a clear idea of how the system works or what the eligibility criteria is. I’m not voicing that observation just to pick on you, but if you really want an understandng of the issue you need to start by knowing the basics.

Stanley's avatar

@basp Actually, I have plenty of first-hand experience with it, but that’s beside the point. The phrasing of my question was not meant to put forward my personal point of view which may or may not be reflected in the question, but to generate interesting discussion. And that’s exactly what it did.

basp's avatar

Despite your first hand experience, you have demonstrated a lack of understanding of what is actually provided by the government. Your exampes indicate you don’t understand how the system works.
If you are ok with the limited knowledge you have regarding this issue, that’s ok. But, since you asked the question, it led me to believe you actually had an interest in knowing the facts.

Stanley's avatar

@basp Fair enough. I told you that I have experience, but you want to continue to attack my statements, which I already said may or may not be my point of view, instead of putting forward your own (except your first post, which was a good one). That’s fine.

I’ve found through my experience on Fluther (I deleted my first account) that questions phrased to generate “I agree” type of responses simply aren’t that interesting to me.

Think Stephen Colbert.

basp's avatar

As I stated earlier, my observation was not meant as an attack. I thought you were seriously interested in this topic and I was offering to you nformation which you demonstrated you were lacking.
I don’t care what your opinion is..I was simply offering factual information on the issue.

skfinkel's avatar

@Stanley . Well, why would a doctor do what you are saying? That is not what doctors do—it is rather their job to help individuals to get assistance. And as far as giving health care to an alcoholic or anyone with any condition at all (like diabetes because they have eaten badly all their lives, for example) I think we should. Everyone should have health care in this country. It is a stain on us for not making sure that each citizen is fully covered. Every time I hear of a “spaghetti feed” to help pay for chemo or some necessary treatment, I cringe.

And, as we do provide health care and not make money from it (one of the outrages of our time), we can begin to help people understand how they can get healthy and maintain health—from parents who can feed their children vegies and fruits to adults who have no idea about the salt and fat in much of the takeout they may eat. It’s a big huge problem, all connected up in various ways.

I have hopes that we are on the cusp of a big change that will allow all of this to make much more sense in the coming years.

Stanley's avatar

@skfinkel Fair enough. Good answer.

galileogirl's avatar

Where you define the idea of “won’t take care of oneself” you hit a very slippery slope.

If 2 people have a similar lifestyle and one develops a condition while the other doesn’t because of genetic differences, does that mean the 1st person isn’t taking care of himself so shouldn’t expect health care.

Is the guy who rides a motorcycle helmetless not taking care of himself? What about the guy who rodeos or the woman who crosses the street against the light? If they are injured, should the ER refuse to assist them before checking their finances?

Is there a cut off age of responsibility? A 15 yo knows what can happen when she is sexually active so if she doesn’t use a condom, should we make her deliver by herself because she wasn’t careful enough.

I have diabetes and an English muffin can make my glucose level spike. Would that muffin make me ineligible for treatment.

The only way we could decide who is taking care of himself is to control everything he eats, drinks or smokes. One could be denied health care based on how he sleeps, drives, works or plays. I don’t think anybody would want that.

wundayatta's avatar

And, since alcoholism, anorexia, bipolar, schizophrenia and many other “mental illnesses” are, in fact, neurological conditions which your genetic heritage can predispose you towards, are we saying that if you have such genes, then tough luck. You’re on your own? We treat people with cancer, which is often the result of a genetic predisposition, activated by unknown environmental condistions. Perhaps we shouldn’t. Perhaps they are freeloaders, too.

It’s impossible to determine motives for behavior. It’s impossible to know if it’s the result of a volitional choice or a choice confounded my neurological abnormalitites. We can’t read anyone else’s mind (as far as I know). Since there is reasonable grounds to doubt that behavior indicates an active refusal, I don’t see how we would achieve any desirable social goal by refusing to help some people.

I don’t believe it is reasonable to try to destroy yourself. But I have tried to do it. As I did it, I knew it didn’t make sense, but I had no idea what else to do in order to deal with the pain and self-hatred I felt. If I ended up homeless, I’d hope someone could find me, house me, help me get on meds that work, because when I’m healthy, I’m fairly useful.

arnbev959's avatar

The government has an obligation to let people be as self-neglecting as they want. It’s called liberty.

Stanley's avatar

@petethepothead I’m not saying that the government should let people be as self-neglecting as they want. I’m asking if the government should pick up the tab for their self-neglect?

galileogirl's avatar

@Stanley That’s the point. For a bureaucracy to decide for whom they are going to “pick up the tab for” there has to be an agreement about which human action constitutes not taking care of oneself. If the guy who got hooked on tobacco at 15 quits in his 30’s, gets cancer in his 50’s do we just let him cough up his lungs and die a slow and painful death because he can’t afford surgery and chemo?

If an unwed mother couldn’t afford prenatal care and goes into labor prematurely, do we just post a guard in the hospital doorway and point out a bench where she can deliver at the bus stop?

If a guy skies into a tree because he should be on the bunny slope, do we just tell his friends to drag him down the mountain and take him home to bed?

We can’t agree on the easy stuff, how would we agree to callously watch people die who might otherwise live. Conversely we could ban cigarettes, make unprotected sex a felony and close down all recreation and sports areas.

Stanley's avatar

@galileogirl Good answer, well thought out.

basp's avatar

Another word about self neglect…. Most often, those who self neglect have mental health issues and the self neglect isn’t a choice, it is a part of the illness.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Those who won’t work? No, no, no, a thousand times no! Those who cannot work, maybe. Those who don’t take care of themselves, maybe not!

YARNLADY's avatar

Many people don’t know how to take care of themselves when the going gets rough. One example of a person I know on Disability does not eat properly, gets zero exercise, and simply does not take care of herself. Her bad habits are partially responsibility for her bad back, knees and hips, and her out of control diabetes.

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