“Liberty or death; don’t tread on me”

J Med Ethics. doi:10.1136/medethics-2011-100085


We agree with the BMA that governments around the world should continue to provide public health information to their citizens to inform them about the potential bene???ts of wearing cycle helmets. However, we disagree with the BMA in so far as we think that governments should resist the temptation to enact legislation that requires adults to wear cycle helmets. We do not advocate the strong libertarian claim encapsulated in the American refrain ‘Liberty or death; don’t tread on me’. Indeed, we entirely accept that governments have a role to play that goes above and beyond the requirements of the minimal state. However, we cannot support legislation that would require competent adults to wear cycle helmets, particularly given the lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of cycle helmets and given the importance of defending people’s right to take risks with their health. If competent adults wish to cycle with their hair (or their shiny pates) exposed to the wind, rain and sky, then they ought to be able to so without interference from the government or from anyone else.

(Interesting choice of title, given all the other things it’s being (ab)used for at the moment.)


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