Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Exercise of Free Will

Talk about rank idiocy. A 54-year-old man who happens to have diabetes, has chronic lung problems, and is yet an inveterate, a stubbornly inveterate smoker. It's amply obvious that this is a man who has no intention of taking care of his physical health. He lives on a disability pension. And he lives in social housing, in a high-rise where other people who require assistance also live. This man, however, in different in quite a special way.

He represents a risk to the other people who also inhabit the building in which he lives. Oh yes, he also poses a risk to his own safety, but he doesn't appear to take that very seriously. He will not, it appears, assume personal responsibility for himself. His chronic lung problems are so acute that he has been placed on a protocol of oxygen therapy.

All individuals who use oxygen equipment are forewarned by the supplier of their equipment that it is dangerous for anyone to smoke in the close vicinity of that equipment. Oxygen can be absorbed into clothing quite readily, and the spark from a cigarette could cause an explosive surprise in an instant, turning the oxygen user into a human torch.

Yet knowing this, the man continues to smoke, while using oxygen tanks to help enable his lungs to breathe more easily. This man has been informed time and again that oxygen is an extreme accelerant, yet he insists on his right to smoke. Finally, his oxygen supplier took action, and removed all the oxygen equipment from his apartment.

Legally they had no other choice, since it is illegal under the Ontario Fire Code or under the guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Health to smoke anywhere close to where such equipment is used. Users are warned not to operate electrical devices near oxygen equipment as well. The man's doctors recommend that he take a smoke cessation course at a nearby hospital.

This man, who suffers from bronchitis and asthma, and has frequent incidents of pneumonia has been in and out of hospitals for treatment, for years. He resists being placed into temporary care facilities that will deal with his many problems, insisting that "I'm not going, I want to be free. They'll keep me in there forever. I'm a human being, I'm not an animal."

Trouble is, humans are supposed to be thinking, reasonable beings, and his behaviour is anything but reasonable. In his own defence, he denies smoking while using oxygen equipment. "I'm not a little kid, I know better." Belying the first-hand account of the care centre's executive director where he was being briefly treated, became violent, and was released.

She claims he tried to smoke while at the care centre and became upset when he was informed he must not, while in the presence of oxygen equipment. That's when he became aggressive and had to be removed from the facility. "I'm OK", he snaps when questioned, and insists "If you keep asking me, I'm going to have to (smoke) a real big one", in response to queries about his smoking, which he denies.

Ottawa Housing, previously unaware of the man's condition and the danger inherent in his abuse of the oxygen equipment, will now become involved, charging a tenant community worker to become involved and check on him on a regular basis, and attempt to convince him to heed his doctor's advice.

If ever there was an instance where someone insisted on abusing themselves, while also insisting that society keep picking up the pieces, this man qualifies right up there. With a health care system already strained to its limits to look after peoples' ill health, there is good reason to bridle at the idiotic selfishness of people like this.

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