Did you hear about the doctor who refused to treat a patient because the woman weighed 200 pounds? The patient was totally embarrassed and humiliated. But guess what – it’s not illegal! In fact, the A.M.A.’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs believes that doctors should be free to choose who want to deal with and that includes refusing to treat someone because they’re obese.
The physician in question is Dr. Helen Carter, an award-winning internist in Massachusetts. But critics dubbed her “uncaring” after she stopped accepting overweight patients and began referring them to a nearby hospital with a center that specializes in obesity. Dr. Carter insists it’s because her staff members were repeatedly being injured while caring for plus-size patients. She also hopes that sending them to an obesity clinic will make them realize their weight is a serious health hazard.
But critics say, what it really boils down to is money. They claim that a lot of doctors don’t like treating obese patients because physical exams take longer than on thinner patients. For example, it’s hard to feel the difference between “love handles” and a cancerous mass. So, doctors treating obese patients have to be slower and more methodical, which translates to seeing – and billing – fewer patients. And they’re more likely to miss a diagnosis, which means they’re more likely to be sued for malpractice. But the critics say it could more damage than good and the worst part is that an overweight patient who’s refused treatment may be so emotionally traumatized, they’ll avoid going to the doctor altogether.
What do you think? Is it okay for doctors to refuse to treat someone just because they’re overweight?