(GUARDIAN) — A majority of doctors support measures to deny treatment to smokers and the obese, according to a survey that has sparked a row over the NHS’s growing use of “lifestyle rationing”.

Some 54% of doctors who took part said the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight or stop smoking. Some medics believe unhealthy behaviour can make procedures less likely to work, and that the service is not obliged to devote scarce resources to them.

However, senior doctors and patient groups have voiced alarm at what they call “blackmailing” of the sick, and denial of their human rights.

Doctors.net.uk, a professional networking site, found that 593 (54%) of the 1,096 doctors who took part in the self-selecting survey answered yes when asked: “Should the NHS be allowed to refuse non-emergency treatments to patients unless they lose weight or stop smoking?”

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