An interesting situation regarding smoking and patient’s rights has developed in Tasmania this month, opening up a whole new world of questions on nurses obligations, rights and rules at work.
The heart of the issue is that A wheelchair bound, tobacco addicted MS sufferer has had his smoking privileges canned, after nursing staff have been prohibited from lighting his cigarettes.
From The Mercury:
“A Tobacco-addicted patient and his nursing home are at odds over regulations that stop staff helping him to smoke.
Brendan Nutting, who is paralysed from the neck down and has lived at the home for 2 1/2 years, received help from staff when the Tasmanian Health and Community Service was owned by the Tasman Council.
But, in February the Hobart District Nurses took over the home, and from next month will enforce a policy that prohibits staff from lighting Mr Nutting’s cigarettes, which are held in a robotic arm attached to his wheelchair.
The home’s managers say their hands are tied by strict occupational health and safety regulations but Advocacy Tasmania and the Multiple-Sclerosis Society say bureaucracy is prevailing over common sense.”
And the response from Hobart District Nurses Chief executive is that there is potential for further legal action if the practice were to be allowed, as well as endangering the health of employees.
“We have a world that is more than aware of the health dangers of passive smoking and as an employer we have to provide a safe workplace,” chief executive Kim Macgowan responded.
Mrs Macgowan suggested that the family were still able to help him smoke, and the nursing home would provide nicotine patches if desired.
“We haven’t stopped anyone from smoking, we simply said staff couldn’t assist people to smoke,” she said.
What’s interesting is that a lot of the decisions that have been made appear to be in order to reduce the risk of litigation in years to come.
“I go back to the asbestos incident and what that tells us is this will expose us to the risk that 20 years down the track people will be knocking on our door and saying I have cancer and this workplace contributed to it. I simply can’t allow for that.” Mrs Macgowan added.
The patient also had a bit to say on the topic:
“I’m stuck in here — I’m too young to be in a nursing home. Now I can’t even have a fag.”
“This is supposed to be my home. I’m supposed to have rights. The staff are happy to help me but it’s just the ridiculous system — there is no common sense.”
“It is a prick of a disease, I have to rely on everyone else to do everything for me,” he said.
What do you think? Is this an act of common sense, or politics gone wrong?