medics fat

Should fat-shaming by doctors be considered malpractice?

Most fat people already know they are fat and do not need to hear it from others. And while it can be especially distressing when they are shamed by internet trolls and other “mean” people, it can be even more hurtful when done by those who claim to do it for “your own best interest.” In fact, surveys have shown that nearly 85% of all adolescents report having been humiliated about their weight in during gym class and extracurricular sports, as well as on social media.

In fact, surveys have shown that nearly 85% of all adolescents report having been humiliated about their weight in during gym class and extracurricular sports, as well as on social media.

Yet, while their own families are often the biggest culprits when it comes to fat-shaming, new studies show that family doctors are running a close second when it comes to fat shaming for people of all ages.

In fact, a growing number of physicians have reportedly been accused of providing disrespectful treatment, such as weighing patients in open areas where others can see and hear, making embarrassing comments and lecturing them on their personal habits and hygiene, as well as conducting less thorough exams.

As a result, many patients choose to avoid visiting their doctors rather than feel abused, and are therefore not receiving the treatment needed for obesity-related conditions including cardiac disease, diabetes and even some forms of cancer, etc.

“Even well-meaning physicians, if they don’t approach the topic carefully, can ruin a patient’s experience at the doctor’s office and potentially inflict long-term damage to their well-being,” stated Joan Chrisler, PhD, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College, during a symposium titled “Weapons of Mass Distraction Confronting Sizeism” at the 2017 American Psychological Association Convention in Washington DC earlier this month. ”

“Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers,” she commented.

She also went on to discuss how a bias on “Sizeism” can also have an effect on how doctors medically treat patients ranging from inadequate dosages of antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs prescribed for larger people, as well as a tendency to exclude obese patients from participating in clinical trials. Another failure by many physicians involves dismissing certain complaints as merely weight-related, rather than taking the time to investigate causes more deeply.

“Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice,” Chrisler said. “Research has shown that doctors repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work or physical therapy for other, average weight patients.”

Another shocking fact brought out during the symposium was the fact that a review of more than 300 autopsies performed on obese people showed that they were nearly twice as likely to have had undiagnosed medical conditions including lung cancer, ischemic bowel disease, and endocarditis at the time of their deaths, leading researchers to conclude that they had either been misdiagnosed during their lifetimes, or had not received proper care. Questions, however, remain as to whether the latter was the result of poor judgment by doctors or a lack of proper access to needed healthcare due to other causes including restrictions imposed by healthcare insurance coverage.

Another topic touched upon was the fact that some doctors have their own psychological reluctance to physical touch severely overweight people. As a result both Chrisler and fellow psychologist Maureen McHugh Ph.D., stressed the need for more mental as well as medical training for doctors and therapists regarding attitudes toward dealing with obese patients if they want desired therapies to have successful results. In other words, doctors need to keep more of an eye on what their patients tell them, rather than just what the scale says.

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