Right of Reply: Jonathan Reggler
A member of the British Medical Association's general practitioner committee responds to a leader on Viagra
Tuesday 26 January 1999
The BMA's general practitioner committee (of which I am a member) rejected the guidelines of Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, and advised GPs to prescribe Viagra to those in need for two reasons. Firstly, NHS regulations ruling GPs' lives explicitly require us to prescribe those drugs that our patients need. Only certain drugs are banned, and Viagra is not yet one of them. Minor infringements of these regulations can lead to severe punishments, but Mr Dobson wants us to ignore the regulations when it suits him.
Secondly, whilst most GPs accept that rationing in the NHS is necessary, it should be fair and logical. Mr Dobson, had two ethically acceptable choices. Viagra for all of those in need or Viagra for no one. To give Viagra on the NHS only to those made impotent by a narrow range of causes and to deny it to all other impotent men is indeed, to use the words of the BMA, "cruel and unethical".
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