Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of insulting more than 200 morbidly obese people on a waiting list for lifesaving operations by suggesting that prevention is better than cure for their condition.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said this group is not being taken seriously and is calling for a reversal of the decision to cancel public gastric bypass operations for the remainder of the year as part of cost-cutting measures.
Mr Kenny said the money is not available to carry out all the operations needed in the health service. He said there was “not an endless resource for this operation or any other”, but that “I believe that prevention is better than cure”.
Mr Martin said: “You are talking about people who are 20-plus stone facing imminent organ failure. You wouldn’t say that to a heart patient and you wouldn’t say that to a cancer patient.”
He said: “This isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s an urgent essential surgical intervention that is required to prevent loss of life.”
During leaders’ questions in the Dáil, Mr Martin said Mr Kenny and James Reilly, health minister, had given a “callous and dismissive response” to a very serious issue.
“How many lives have to be lost before the Government get the message and intervene and do the right thing here,” Mr Martin asked.
Mr Kenny said that he “regrets” if the language used by Mr Reilly “was deemed to be callous and not caring by Deputy Martin”, adding: “I’d be certainly sorry about that.”
He said the health system “does not have sufficient resources available to do every operation that you might want to do”.
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