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Dear Miss Manners

I am deeply concerned about the health of a friend who is young and greatly overweight. When we were alone after a physics lecture he gave, I gently asked him, "Out of concern, how is your blood pressure?"

He said, "It's none of your business" and left.

A year ago, a friend who was overweight suffered a fatal stroke. I thought, "This friend is even more overweight, he is a walking stroke waiting to happen."

Weeks later, I asked a famous cardiologist I met to send him a letter, but he refused, citing "barratry." I said, "Send him to a clinic nearer his home, then there is no barratry," but he still refused.

What happened to the Hippocratic oath? A life is at stake here! What do I do now? When I see my friend again, what should I say to him?

Gentle Reader -- Miss Manners rechecked the Hippocratic oath, but it does not bind doctors to administer health care to a person against the prospective patient's will.

Perhaps, she speculated, you consider your friend not in a competent state to judge. But that is not easy to prove, and Miss Manners doubts that teaching physics can be considered clear-cut evidence.

She then checked the meaning of barratry, which is the offense of stirring up quarrels. And your friend's reaction to your kind concern did seem to suggest that pursuing the matter and enlisting others to do so would lead to a quarrel.

Mind you, Miss Manners appreciates your concern, even if the object of it doesn't.

We could argue whether barratry might be excusable to save lives. But you are not helping your friend by telling him that he is overweight. He already knows that. Nor are you encouraging him to do something about it if you are merely inciting his anger.

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