Force Quit

By Jim McVeagh 28/11/2009


Force Quit is what you do on a Mac when a program freezes to remove the offending program from memory. Force quit also appears to be what the DHBs have in mind to achieve their goal of 80 per cent of hospitalised smokers be given advice and help to quit. Most DHBs are way under this goal and the suggestion is:

they want all smokers who are admitted to hospital to be offered nicotine replacement therapy for the duration of their stay and afterwards if the patient wants to make an attempt to quit smoking long-term.

So far, so innocent. But I have worked in Tokoroa hospital where the ban on smoking extends to the entire hospital grounds. Patients are left with no choice but to take the nicotine patches (or go cold turkey). I am under no illusion that this sort of regime will spread to all hospitals eventually. It is the inevitable result of removing the “smoko” rooms from the hospitals and forcing patients and staff outside.

Smoking is certainly the worst thing you can do for your health, barring throwing yourself under a bus. I greatly support the idea of encouraging smokers to give up their dangerous addiction by offering them whatever help they may need. But it seems to me to be needlessly cruel to insist that the 65 year old woman with respiratory failure be made to stop smoking every time she comes into hospital. Sure, stopping smoking may extend her life for a few months or a year, but shouldn’t she be making that choice? A bit of coercion is often good for young people, as they often do not appreciate the end result of their actions, but this lady is the end result. Her decision is only too well “informed”.

Virtually forcing people to quit smoking is unlikely to have any permanent benefits as almost all people pressurized in this way will restart.

This has always seemed to me an area where hospital rules can be absurdly rigid and patient-unfriendly. The target of 80% (soon to be 90%) “quit smoking” proselytizing is not making hospitals any patient-friendlier, nor is it helping the smoking population.

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