Getting refused from a VIP nightclub is one thing, but how about feeling like you're never going to make it beyond the velvet rope to see your gyno? Turns out 93 million people in this country who are considered obese could face difficulty finding health care, if certain OB/GYNs' practices in South Florida are any indication of things to come. Some of these dotors are now refusing to treat new patients weighing in at 200 pounds or more. In fact, 15 out of 105 practices polled by the Sun Sentinel say they've implemented this rule.
Dr. Albert Triana, whose two-physician practice in South Miami declines obese patients explains:
People don't realize the risk we're taking by taking care of these patients. There's more risk of something going wrong and more risk of getting sued. Everything is more complicated with an obese patient in GYN surgeries and in [pregnancies].
Somehow, turning away obese women technically isn't illegal, but is it unethical? I'd argue hell to the yeah.
First of all, there's a little something doctors have to take called the Hippocratic Oath, right? That statement of a moral of conduct to be used by physicians, assuming the respect for all human life. You'd think especially a human life that might be at more risk for disease.
I get that some gynos may not be comfortable "treating" obesity, but given what's going on in this country, that's uh, too bad. Maybe they should consider the fact that these women could be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, like hypothyroidism, estrogen dominance, or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which a good OBGYN should know something about treating holistically or with a drug like metformin (as opposed to just offering up birth control pills like candy)? At the very least, they still have the responsibility to refer these patients to a specialist who can help them.
What's going on here isn't just outrageous; it speaks to a greater issue, as well, which is that perhaps these doctors seem to think it's okay to discriminate against obese women, because our society does all the time. In many ways, no matter the fact that the overweight and obese people in this country are no longer in the minority, they're the butt of the joke. And they're no strangers to being stigmatized or discriminated against everywhere -- from an airplane to a doctor's office. (But, seriously, what woman doesn't dread hearing a "tsk, tsk" clucking from the nurse at her annual weigh-in?)
And maybe it also has to do with the fear surrounding obesity that's become so much more pervasive as more and more Americans struggle with their weight. Surely, these doctors are terrified that they're not equipped to handle "high-risk" patients. But how they're dealing with that fear is a problem. A good doctor wouldn't face their fears by reacting in a defensive manner -- instead, they would be proactive and learning what they can do to help these higher-risk women.
In short, turning these women away is discrimination. As a spokesperson for the Obesity Action Coalition in Tampa said, "This completely goes against the principles of being a doctor. Health care professionals are there to help individuals improve their quality of health, not stigmatize them according to their weight."
What do you think -- is it unethical for these doctors to set weight cut-offs for patients?
Image via Truthout.org