(Sourced from The New York Times)
Maybe you missed the headlines offered by the New York Times after day number one of Elena Kagan's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Apparently she was doing quite well until Senator Tom Coburn a Republican from Oklahoma posed the following question, "Can the government pass a law forcing Americans to eat fruits and vegetables?" Her initial reply? "It sounds like a dumb law." She then realized that Mr. Coburn was quite serious and she began to cautiously analyze the ramifications of the question. The takeaway was that her answer should have been "Congress cannot wield that kind of powerful control over people." But wait, let me play devil's advocate for a moment.
There are organizations and individuals who see this as a more complex issue. Let's re-phrase the concept of eating fruits and vegetables to proactively embracing healthy habits - or at least making an effort to do so. If you don't and there are poor health outcomes, like developing diabetes and heart disease, then your employer will bear the burden in extra health costs, lost days of work and that means your co-workers may have to pick up the slack. It means that tax payers will bear the escalating cost of insurance payments because your health issues tax the insurance industry. And those are just the simplistic evaluations of the burden you are placing on various sectors of society. You may say "too bad" - it's my body, my life, my decision to make (whether to adopt healthy lifestyles or not). But from the other guy's perspective - he also bears the costs of your decisions.
It might be just a bit easier to see when it comes to a spouse who chooses not to eat healthy, not to exercise, who is obese, who develops serious chronic health conditions. Though his wife may bear the situation silently, she may be feeling that her husband is putting his life at risk, raising his risk of premature death - and that will leave her with the unbearable burden of the loss itself and being a single mom at too young an age. The kids may feel that if they were brought into the world, they deserve a dad who will be at their Little League games and their graduation and their marriage. So when you're a husband and dad (or wife and mom) the consequences of you health decisions affect others, sometimes pretty significantly. You may still have an I don't care attitude, but you've got to, at minimum, realize that your entire family does have a stake in your wellness.
So though the Supreme Court may decide that the government has no right to order Americans to eat their fruits and vegetables, you should consider that your family may indeed have a right to demand it.
What's your position on the debate??
Published On: August 18, 2010