Bioethicist Daniel Callahan has made a case for the public derision of people who overeat in a style similar to how smokers have been sent outside, taxed more and are considered to be at personal fault for their own poor health choices. “The force of being shamed and beat upon socially,” he writes, “was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health.” Callahan also argues that making obese individuals aware of the stigma already put upon them by “doctors and nurses” as “lazy, self-indulgent and lacking in discipline,” would discourage them from overeating.
What’s the Big Idea?
Callahan’s argument begs the question: When do individual rights become so destructive toward the community that they should be limited? The collective health and social costs of sugary drinks have already prompted New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to impose a ban on over-sized sodas. “Callahan makes a case for himself not being that radical: he’s only calling for ‘mild coercion’ on the part of the government, in the form of Bloomberg-style bans and taxes, supplemented by what he calls ‘stigmatization lite.'”