Intended for healthcare professionals


When should patients be held responsible for their lifestyle choices?

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:279
  1. John Gillies, general practitioner (,
  2. Mark Sheehan, lecturer2
  1. 1 Selkirk Health Centre, Selkirk TD7 4LQ
  2. 2 Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
  1. Correspondence to: J Gillies

    Many would argue, in a case like this,1 that individuals should be held accountable for the lifestyle choices that they make. People should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit, but when this goes against the generally received (medical) wisdom society is required to do only a limited amount to redress the consequences of those choices. So, when someone freely chooses to live life in a particular way, he, not society must shoulder the responsibility for those choices.2

    This response is powerful, but two points can be made against its use …

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