Barb Copp is no alcoholic, but she likes a drink now and then. Last March she had a little too much of the sauce, and broke her arm, for which she sought medical treatment.
The next thing she knew, her driver’s licence had been suspended for one year.
Has she driven under the influence—ever? No.
Copp is a quiet 69-year-old, who has been on the road for 53 years with only one speeding ticket issued nine years ago. But the Ontario transport ministry requires doctors to report patients with various medical conditions, including “alcohol dependency.” Physicians didn’t really begin to inform on their patients, however, until Ontario began paying them to do so.
When she was examined in a hospital emergency, she freely admits, she was intoxicated, having been at a wake for a friend. Her tests revealed, not surprisingly, an elevation in liver enzymes, which might well have been temporary. But this was enough for her physician to rat her out.
Now she has been told that, as a condition of getting her licence back, she must completely abstain from alcohol for one year—or take a “treatment program.”
How nice of the state to look after our livers. But why stop there? Surely the precautionary principle could be extended much further. Obese? No fast food for a year, during which time you can’t use public transport. Exhausted from working too hard? Driver’s licence suspended until you catch up on your sleep. Depressed? Tradesperson’s ticket lifted for twelve months—dangerous to handle tools in that condition, see.
Over the years I have been profoundly irritated by the overuse of the cant phrase “nanny state” to describe various social advances, including medicare. But in this case, I have to admit, it’s coming pretty close to being accurate. It’s all there—regulating your private life, encouraging others to report you, punishing you for non-crimes.
Slippery slope? Comments welcome.