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A
certain moral judgement exists regarding unhealthy lifestyles. It is questioned
whether people are free to make certain decisions even if these have a negative
impact on their health (Beaufort, 2002). But to what extent can we blame people
for the unhealthy choices they make? When making lifestyle choices, people are
influenced by their genetic make-up, their upbringing and family, social and
other environmental factors. Therefore, the moral responsibility regarding
lifestyle consists of a mixture of chance, choice and circumstances (Beaufort,
2002). This makes it difficult to determine to what degree people can be held
responsible for their unhealthy lifestyle, since it would be unfair to apply
too much moral responsibility but it would also be wrong to apply too little (Beaufort,
2002). How do people take on a certain lifestyle? No one is born with a
lifestyle, in develops overtime throughout one’s life (Beaufort, 2002). Social
circumstances, like wealth of poverty, and psychological factors influence the
choice of lifestyle. Luck also plays a role in this choice (Beaufort, 2002). Some
people might be less free to choose the lifestyle they want than others. Not
only can they lack the means to take-on a particular lifestyle, they can also
be pressured to live a certain lifestyle, which can be a healthy lifestyle as
well as an unhealthy lifestyle (Beaufort, 2002). When
we assess the degree of autonomy and responsibility, we should also take the issue
of addiction into account (Beaufort, 2002). Furthermore, we should consider the
scapegoat problem and the Popeye problem. The scapegoat problem explains that
when discussing the degree of responsibility regarding lifestyle, people have
the tendency to focus a lot on unhealthy habits, like smoking, but not that
much on other factors associated with lifestyle that can also have an unhealthy
impact, like working too much (Beaufort, 2002). The Popeye problem explains
that with many lifestyle aspects it is not known for sure yet whether they are
healthy or unhealthy, therefore it is difficult take these aspects into account
when making lifestyle choices (Beaufort, 2002). Now,
there is an ongoing discussion about whether people with an unhealthy lifestyle
who develop a disease should pay for their own medical treatment. People who
are in favour for ‘paying your own way’ argue that it is unfair that others
have to pay for the costs for treatment of diseases caused by an unhealthy lifestyle
(Beaufort, 2002). However, not every unhealthy lifestyle imposes cost on
others. Further it is difficult to decide which lifestyles need to pay for
their own treatment and which do not. People might agree that alcoholics and
smokers need to be taxed, but what about mountain climbers? (Beaufort, 2002) In
addition, the question whether these people can be held responsible for their
unhealthy lifestyle, is raised. To determine the degree of responsibility, you
need to have a lot of information about a person’s life. In order to acquire
this information a person’s privacy might be invaded. This raises important
issues about violation of privacy (Beaufort, 2002).

The perspective of genetics is also important
when making lifestyle choices, since genetics can give information about risks.
Your genetic constitution can, for example, determine whether something is
healthy for you or not (Beaufort, 2002). Are people, however, morally obligated
to find out about their genetic susceptibilities and their individual risks? If
they are aware of their risks, they can make better informed choices about
their lifestyle. This does, however, not mean that they are morally obligated
to make these choices (Beaufort, 2002). In addition, knowing you are at risk
for the development of a certain disease can cause stress and medicalization.
Therefore ‘the right not to know’ is important (Beaufort, 2002). Knowing you
are at risk for a disease can also lead to ‘genetic defeatism’, where a person
does not change his/her lifestyle regardless of the risk. On the other hand,
people who turn out to be at low risk for developing a certain disease might
actually give in to unhealthy habits (Beaufort, 2002).  

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