If the study’s findings are sound and replicable, they may provide a compelling counterargument to the unfair societal burden justice claim that is so often used to support mandatory helmet laws.For patients on donor recipient waiting lists, there would be decreased wait times, decreased emotional and physical suffering for recipients and their loved ones, and decreased use of expensive life-sustaining technologies and health care resources over time.
West Virginia certainly has not been alone in considering whether to overturn its helmet legislation.
Since the first universal helmet laws were enacted in 1967, 31 states have repealed their related laws, most recently Michigan in 2012.
This type of “my body, my choice” language, which is recognized and protected in the law, is most commonly associated with the abortion debate, and is not dissimilar to the arguments put forth by those who support efforts to repeal mandatory motorcycle helmet laws.
Those individuals who oppose helmet laws often claim such legislation interferes with their right to choose and argue that individuals should decide what level of risk they are willing to expose themselves to while riding a motorcycle.
Groups such as the American Motorcycle Association argue that “mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes,” and are an inappropriate method of increasing safety and public awareness.
Although the prevention and reduction of injury are a primary focus of helmet use, the motorcycle helmet law debate typically raises ethical issues that extend beyond the more immediate and intended purpose of protecting the head of the rider.In West Virginia, a predictable annual tradition occurs as the legislature wraps up its session: the state trauma providers receive an e-mail from the their state representatives and senators asking that we weigh in on whether to continue or repeal the state’s mandatory helmet law.As medical professionals, surgeons need to play a role in public policy decisions that relate to health care, including the debate over helmet laws.In 2002, a Consortium of the American Board of Internal Medicine, The American College of Physicians, and The American Society of Internal Medicine partnered with the European Federation of Internal Medicine and developed a new Charter for Professionalism.And, while they emphasized the three fundamental principles—patient welfare, autonomy, and social justice—the authors noted that in any contract between medicine and society, physicians should provide expert advice to society on matters of health and public safety.Similarly, when universal laws were repealed in favor of partial laws, Florida saw its compliance drop from 99 percent to 53 percent, and in Louisiana compliance went from 100 percent down to 52 percent.