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The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Phone: 604-266-6552
Fax: 604-267-3342

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June 2003


    Who’s to blame?

    Dr. Diane Forbes

    Wow, what a week! After a long and rather wet spring, summer has arrived--and how. It seems that this week just got better with each passing day. The sun came out, the sky lost every cloud and the temperature got hot. So when a friend invited me to her cabin for the weekend I jumped at the opportunity. I packed up my shorts, took a day off work, and worked on my suntan.

    Now, we all know the motto for protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen. We also hear that we should keep out of the most harmful mid day sunshine, because that is when the exposure is the highest. These are the best defenses for avoiding not only the nasty effect of aging our skin, but to protect us from skin cancer. Which by the way can become malignant, will kill 800 plus people in Canada this year.

    I have no interest in getting skin cancer and know that I should really try to keep my possibility of getting burnt to a minimum. Over my life time I have been burnt on more that one occasion, and I should avoid any further burns, in order to minimize my chance of getting melanoma, but darn it if I don’t try to get some color on my skin every summer. I do slip, slap and slop (number 15 or 30), but I also sometimes sit on the porch until I get hot, and I have been known to go paddling in the afternoon.

    So, if I was to get cancer, would you hold my intention to get some fun in the sun against me? Would you deny me treatment because I didn’t follow the best advice for minimizing my exposure to ultra violet radiation from the sun? How would you compare my behavior against the truly sun worshiping who still use #2 Coppertone?

    This week the British Government looked at requiring patients to sign letters of responsibility for their health, ostensibly to place the onus on the patient to live a healthier life style. Critics charge this opens the door to the possibility that they could be denied National Health Service coverage if they got sick from a preventable disease, like for instance my supposed melanoma.

    This week the Government of British Columbia found out that it cannot take big tobacco firms to court in order to recoup costs for treating lung cancer patients. These people also suffer from a preventable disease, and I wonder how they would be treated under the proposed British policy. Would the Government of BC look to such a system to reduce its costs also? Would they then no longer be required to help me?

    Where does the blame lie here? Does Government blame the health care user for not adequately protecting themselves against disease? Does the patient blame the Government for not protecting them against dangerous products and practice? Does the Government blame the manufacturer of products that cause health conditions? Where are these lines drawn?

    There are a lot of questions to be answered here. And I have few answers right now. But I know that for me, as an individual, I will be the best off in the long run if I take care of my best interests, by minimizing my risk of getting a disease such as skin cancer. I will live the longest this way no matter who pays for it, because in the end I truly pay the price for any reduction in my health status, and I am the only one to blame.

    Diane Forbes is a Vancouver chiropractor preventative health advocate

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