Monday, September 10, 2007

Workplace Penalties for Ill Health

I caught the end of a television news story that indicated that employers are now free to discriminate against people with hypertension, weight problems and other ailments. The United States must be working on an award for heartlessness. Oh, I know. These people deserve to be punished because they brought these ailments on themselves. I think people who have never had a weight or health issue believe that. I believe that our genetics determine a great deal. I am lactose intolerant. I think I owe that malady to my native American ancestors. I also have some other ailments traceable to that ancestry. I neither smoke nor drink, but I now have a host of maladies. I used to exercise regularly, but my childhood bone disease has come back to haunt me, so I have stopped much exercise. I am overweight, so that must be my sin. Where will we stop in assessing blame for health problems? If you are born with congenital disabilities, should your parents pay? Better yet, let's test for abnormalities and require abortion, if found. We could do genetic testing, so only babies guaranteed to be perfect can live, that will reduce health insurance cost.

Our knowledge and our ethics are too imperfect for such drastic measures. I would argue the same for the punitive policies in the workplace. Too little is known of cause and effect. We cannot allow employers to winnow their employees as statistics based on science that is still imperfect. We need to treat every person as an asset, treat them as God would have us treat them, not a result in a cost benefit analysis.

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