In matters of risk, no man is an island

Letter to the editorLetter to the editor
Letter to the editor
The former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption has made an impressive case criticising the government approach to the lockdown (in the Sunday Times, May 16, and on the BBC).

He writes: “It is our business, not the state’s, to say what risks we take with our own health.”

That is mostly true, but not entirely.

It applies to the voluntary risks taken by a mountaineer, a skier or a rugby player. But not to those who deliberately drive down a country road at 100 mph.

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Or to heavy smokers. I recall several non-smoking patients who died of lung cancer, probably acquired passively from their chain-smoking partners or colleagues. There are other examples.

The World War II dictum ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ is still apt. As the Very Rev John Donne observed ‘No man is an island’.

Sidney Lowry, Emeritus professor of oncology, Co Down