policy

Obesity: Is Government the Cure?

Obesity is now officially a disease, at least according to the American Medical Association. Despite this recent designation, obesity has long been a killer: 300,000 deaths are attributed to obesity annually. The condition is also associated with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, breathing problems, arthritis, depression, and many other ailments. Although these deaths and illness are largely preventable, Washington has been slow to take up any large-scale action to combat this epidemic. But now, lawmakers have been moving on ways to fight the obesity epidemic. • The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act sets new standards for fats, sugars and sodium in meals prepared and sold in schools. • The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act aims at providing expanded treatment for obesity to medicaid and medicare beneficiaries. • State governments are setting new standards for physical education, like House Bill 11-1069 in Colorado requiring physical activity for all elementary school children. • A Group of 18 big city mayors sent a letter to the federal government pushing for a ban on the use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to buy soda and sugary drinks. • Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an executive order and proposed 2 laws aimed at increasing visibility and access to stairs in New York City buildings. These measures presented by government officials raise the question: Is it even possible for the government...

When Does Feeding Prisoners Violate Medical Ethics?

Guantanamo detainees on a hunger strike are now being strapped into chairs and gagged as doctors push a feeding tube through their nose into the back of their throat and into their stomach as often as twice a day. It’s a disturbing new practice, but one we must examine in full as we consider whether Guantanamo reflects American values. Anyone who has had a nasogastric tube placed through their throat while awake knows why hospitalized patients often complain about the tube more than they complain about the pain of surgery. The gagging can be extreme even when patients are relaxed and cooperating by swallowing repeatedly during the procedure. Resisting the tube during its insertion, as the unwilling detainees at Guantanamo do, elicits an exacerbated rapid cycle of gasping for air and gagging or vomiting. Why is the U.S. government initiating this new round of forced gagging? It may be simply to save itself from the potential embarrassment if a majority of detainees die on a principled hunger strike. Guantanamo detainees have resorted to desperate measures to call attention to what they and many others view as human rights violations, including the disintegration of due process. A classified memo released in 2011 indicates that military officials were then aware that up to two-thirds of inmates were, at best, “low level” threats and that nearly 20 percent were believed to be “innocent.” Nevertheless, 166 prisoners...

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