In recent days the Mental Health Act was utilised to forcibly remove people who were living on the streets and who had refused shelter during snow storms.
The State intervened to, as it saw it, save people from themselves.
This is not the first time the State has intervened when it thought people were endangering themselves.
It has also intervened when it believed that individuals were endangered by the beliefs of others — particularly when parents, because of their peculiar religious convictions, refused to give doctors permission to administer life-saving treatment to a sick child.
These interventions, like the new level of compunction around the Public Services Card, raise a valid if purely theoretical question — if the State believes it is obliged to save people from themselves should it make various vaccinations mandatory?
After all, those who refuse vaccinations not only adopt a position that, according to the best science available, not only jeopardises themselves but those around them as well.
The same commonsense principle is in play in each of the instances so why not a more consistent approach?