Too Fat For A Doctor’s Appointment?May 18, 2011 No Comments
If there’s one place I thought we were all treated equally, it was at the doctor’s office. I used to see it as a safe, judgment-free zone. Florida just proved me wrong.
Out of 105 obstetrics-gynecology practices polled by the Sun Sentinel, 15 admitted they have set weight cut-offs for new patients, meaning that if you’re 200 pounds or heavier, they will not even take the time to examine you. When only weeks ago women around this country fought to remind the United States of the importance of reproductive health care, this phenomenon in Florida is a sobering look at the realities of medical practices nowadays.
The main reason given to justify this method of filtering new clients was that their exam tables or other equipment can’t handle people over a certain weight. Some have said that their ultrasound machines can not get clear images of obese women, which could prevent them from spotting anomalies and would put the patient in danger.
Others were frighteningly upfront about the real reason why they turn these women down and medicine has little to do with it. They said they were trying to avoid obese patients because they have a higher risk of complications.
Dr. Albert Triana, whose practice in South Miami declines patients classified as obese, almost sees taking on these new patients as irresponsible. She told the Sun Sentinel, ”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].”
Instead of treating them or giving them an initial check-up, these doctors immediately send these women to specialists in obesity and high-risk pregnancies. But the problem is that a great portion of the obese population in the United States have low incomes so it’s possible they probably couldn’t afford them. So if they do end up having complications during a pregnancy, they either have to search high and low for an OB/GYN who will have them or have nowhere to go.
Turning down patients is not illegal as long as it is not based on racial discrimination, gender, sexual orientation or infectious diseases according to AMA guidelines, but who’s the next group in line for this kind of ridiculous policy? Older women trying to have babies because their pregnancies are riskier? But wait, no. Often these women put their career ahead of founding a family so they have the amount of money that will allow these doctors to live affluently after they pay the high fees for the specialized treatment they require and will always be welcome.
I have always imagined doctors taking the Hippocratic oath before they leave med school to open a practice as dedicated to their craft for life. Isn’t that promise about helping people and making them profit from the gift of medicine? This little trend, which, as far as we know, is thankfully only localized in Florida for now, hints at a very scary trend of doctors only being in it for the money rather than altruism and passion for medicine and healing.
In a nation where 93 million people are obese — that’s almost a third of the US’s entire population — grave consequences could ensue should this trend spread. Hopefully the backlash against these 15 practitioners will stop it in its tracks. All women, no matter their weight, deserve accessible medical treatment.
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