OB/GYNs Refusing Obese Women Aren't Practicing Medicine


obgyns refuse obese womenGetting 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

obgyn, weight loss, obesity


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scekqmom scekqmom

I am over 200 and do not think it unethical at all if they refer them to someone more capable. If not, then it's unacceptble.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

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.

Actually, how they're dealing with an inability to handle the case of an obese woman's pregnancy is exactly appropriate - they're refusing care beause it's outside the scope of their expertise and comfort zone.  To accept a patient when you won't be able to provide them with the knowledge and experience to provide professional support and service to what will likely be a high-risk pregnancy would be unethical.

Do I think it's an unfortunate situation? Yes.  Do I think docs are to blame for it?  Nope.  Do I think they have every right to not risk their medical license on these women?  Absolutely.

Kaide... KaidensMama1107

No I dont think they are in the wrong..ppl who choose to body take.care of.their bodies are at fault..they should have to pay more for insurance..they should get fat taxed..I'm not knocking obese ppl but why shouldnt they have different health obligations? Same for a for drug abusers and smokers and anyone who wants to abuse their body and they go crying to a doctor to help them? It's not equality...with exception to ppl who are obese due to health reasons...sorry but that's how I feel.. ppl can't treat their bodies like shit nd expect doctors to cater to them

sunny... sunnybunny5us

It makes total sense. It is a risk factor.

LKRachel LKRachel

in this country we are so sue-happy that if something were to go wrong that had little to do w patient care and everything to do w the patients health before getting pregnant-that doc is probably going to get sued. Is it right? No! But it's the end product of a broken system. If drs are going to be judged on the health of their patients (even if things like quitting smoking or losing weight are completely out of their control) then they're going to handpick the patients they treat in order to have the best outcome.

butte... butterflymkm

Are they at least reffering patients to a different OB? I hate to see anyone, especially a pregnant woman, go without medical care because a dr is afraid of gettig sued.

PonyC... PonyChaser

IF these doctors are referring these women to another doctor because they, themselves, do not feel equipped to help them, then I'm ok with it. But if they're just looking at these women (pregnant or not ,because OBGYNs are not just pregnancy doctors, they're overall "girl-stuff" doctors) and saying, "gee, you're fat, I'm not going to work with you," then I have a serious problem with it.

Are they treating others the same way? The woman who smokes, the woman who drinks? The one who is dangerously thin because she doesn't eat enough? The woman who is at risk for breast cancer? Because every single one of those women poses a "risk" as well. If they're not turning them away, but are turning away the obese ladies, then it's discrimination, and that's a problem. It's their right - they're private businesses. But it's still ethically wrong.

nonmember avatar Karlee

It really is a huge risk to practice in US as a doctor. Let's see - as an OB/GYN, you can make a certain amount of money (plus, all doctors I know take on some pro-bono cases in cases where people don't have insurance and have have a really low income, etc) - when something goes wrong and a certain patient wants to make some cash, they can sue for millions. As a doctor - you need to hire GOOD lawyers who cost a lot of money to defend your case and who knows whether you can win. Even if you win, you end up spending thousands on lawyers, if you lose, you end up spending thousands on lawyers plus having to settle with the patient.

nonmember avatar Karlee

Either way it's a lose-lose for the doctors. Also, it would be unethical and pretty much illegal for the doctors to make the patients sign a contract that if something goes wrong, they cannot sue the doctor. In this case, the doctors are between a rock and a hard place, so I can understand why they choose to opt out of treating obese patients. Why run the risk when someone simply decided they DO NOT WANT to be healthy. Yes, staying obese and planning/carrying a child is being unhealthy and irresponsible, not only to yourself but to the child as well. Doctors should have this right. It is unethical but if you run the risk of ruining your life, reputation, career and credit history because of a lazy cow, then it's what's called an exception to the ethical standards. Also, these doctors WOULD treat these patients if said patients did not have an ability to be treated by another doctor. Don't make them into monsters without knowing full stories.

sarahAl sarahAl

@KaidensMama, What if an obese person, due to health reasons, did not yet know the underlying cause? It's still ok to turn them away? My mom was close to 400 and found out a couple years ago it was due to a tumor that could have eventually killed her. Some things like that don't come up in routine blood tests or exams.

How is that fair, to be turned away just because of how you look on the outside? EVERYONE deserves a chance to be checked out at least once to see if there actually is a medical cause to whatever condition they have. If the doctor determines there is no medical cause, THEN s\he can explain why s\he does not want to see said patient anymore and refer them to someone else. And referrals are necessary! Some insurance companies make it damn difficult to see your own ob\gyn, primary care, etc, let alone have to keep switching docs because you can't find one who is comfortable to treat any patient.

And honestly, if you are not comfortable treating anyone who comes to your office, then you shouldn't be a doctor.

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