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The Falling Down Laws

Notes from an emergency room doctor: I hate cigarette smoking. It has always appeared to me to be a disgusting habit, and is now a well-known unhealthful one. I hate second hand smoke too. I always make a point of sitting in no smoking sections of restaurants, and I use my walking dollar to express displeasure with those places that would require me to tolerate a smoky environment. I hate seeing people riding motorcycles without helmets. From my vantage point in an emergency room, I've seen what damage a biker's head sustains in an accident without a helmet or with an ineffective one.

It seems that our lawmakers - local, state, and federal - hate a lot of the same things that I do. And in their "infinite wisdom," they are hellbent on controlling everyone's self-destructive personal behavior. To help them out, I am proposing a new set of laws to safeguard public health and safety. I call them the FALLING DOWN LAWS.

You might be interested in knowing that the most common injuries requiring a visit to an emergency room are due to falls. A recent study showed that one-third of all hospital admissions for trauma resulted from falls.

In just one day at work recently, I saw the gamut of injuries. Toddlers with chin, forehead, and lip lacerations from running or walking falls; a teen with a concussion due to a soccer fall; the working man with a dislocated shoulder from a fall at work; a young mother who fell on the wet floor at the supermarket injuring her back; a middle aged woman who gouged her leg after falling over a sprinkler head; the unfortunate senior with a hip fracture after a fall out of bed; and the senile old man with Parkinson's who fell from his wheelchair and fractured several ribs.

An interesting survey in Washington state documented the types of falls that led to hospitalization. Falling from one level to another accounted for 38%, a same level slip 16%, ladders 13%, steps 4%, out of buildings 4%, holes 1%, and collisions with another person 2%.

This information is all our legislators should need to know in enacting the new "falling down laws."

I propose that these laws require the use of a "walker" for anyone old enough to walk or run. This walker would be required to be used on streets, parks, in malls, anywhere except in the privacy of one's home. Special harnesses would also be required for anyone walking down steps. And needless to say, helmets would be required for anyone who dared climb a ladder, get on the monkey bars, or fix a roof.

I am convinced these new laws will save billions in healthcare costs and protect more of us from injury than the current smoking laws, the helmet laws, or the laws that criminalize drugs.

Now our lawmakers can enact these new "falling down laws" or they can expect us to stand on our own two feet. They can expect us to be responsible for our individual and private behaviors. But why should they do that? It'd put a lot of them out of a job.

Soon I may discuss the medical horrors of alcohol abuse. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they brought back prohibition?