RCN defies doctors by opposing boxing ban

Nurses' congress: Individual rights valued above health risk to fighters
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Defying their colleagues at the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing yesterday voted overwhelmingly against a ban on boxing.

Delegates at the RCN's annual congress in Bourne mouth conceded there were serious health risks, but decided that prohibition would infringe individual rights and make the sport more dangerous by driving it underground.

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the college, said the BMA's decision had been based on clinical information 10 years ago which indicated that damage was more likely.

Speaking against a ban Michael Hayward, of Portsmouth, told delegates: "The RCN cannot and should not be seen to be publicly taking away further rights and choices of the individual. It is not our place to be self-righteous and sanctimonious.''

Mr Hayward, a coronary care nurse and a former military policeman who boxed in the army, added: "Boxing is not safe. That cannot be disputed. Two people knocking ten bells of the proverbial out of each other is not conducive to good health. However, it is their health and their bodies."

He said there had been more deaths in other sports such as rugby, powergliding and motor racing. The motion to ban boxing was opposed by 75 per cent of delegates.

Brian Kaye, chairman of the Society for Nursing People with a learning disability, moving the proposition, said delegates should ask themselves whether they wanted to live in a society where people paid to watch one individual deliberately inflicting damage on another.

Mr Kaye, of Ashworth high security hospital on Merseyside, had nursed a former professional boxer who sustained severe brain damage and who had committed violent offences as a consequence.

Supporters of boxing said it was character building, Mr Kaye said: "But what sort of character do we want to build? The kind of character based on the ability to assault others?"

Seconding the proposition, Astrid Henderson, a colleague of Mr Kaye at Ashworth, took issue with the assertion that there had only been 15 deaths from boxing since 1945. She pointed out that the statistics only covered professional fighters. She said that 500 boxers had died as a result of neurological injuries since 1884.

An RCN document reminded delegates that in recent times two boxers - Bradley Stone and James Murray - had died as a result of their boxing injuries. Such tragedies had led to renewed calls for legislation to prohibit professional boxing, but a Bill in 1995 was opposed by the Government, which argued that it was an established and highly regulated sport and part of Britain's sporting heritage

Medical evidence suggested that a severe blow to the head resulted in the death of brain cells. Boxers who received successive blows to the head may suffer irreversible brain damage.