The Well Column, the New York Times wellness blog, has posted two articles this week about weight bias and stigma in healthcare. The first, reference a study that indicated physicians are nicer to non-obese patients. This is significant because physicians then foster better relationship with their normal weight patients, often leaving obese patients to not engaged in their care and less likely to follow doctor’s orders. Read the full article: Overweight Patients Face Bias
I have experience weight bias from medical professionals many times, the most frustrating is providers not having a scale to accurately weigh obese patients or blood pressure cuffs to fit my arms. Weight and blood pressure are too very important vital signs and the equipment for both would not be a financial burden to the office. I have a home scale that has a 440lbs capacity, why can’t they afford one? Then of course the scary weeble wooble exam tables. YIKES. Hospital gowns. I’ve twice not been able to have a medical test performed because the equipment could not hold someone over 300lbs.
Then there is the direct from the physician bias, my diagnosis of lymphedema was delayed nearly two years because my doctor blamed the size of my legs on my weight. After that experience I began to advocate for myself, I didn’t accept a doctor blaming my weight, I didn’t allow them to deflect the real issue at hand to my size and appearance. One of my favorite incidents, yes odd that I say favorite as it wasn’t so positive at the time I was in a lot of pain, it was when I had been admitted to the hospital for cellulitis in my legs. This was not the first time I was hospitalized for IV antibiotics to treat my cellulitis. I had reached the point of packing a bag and taking my own pillow to the ER because I knew I would be admitted for several days of treatment. This time I had gone to the ER at night, was admitted but the next morning was still waiting for the hospital doctor to examine me before any antibiotics were ordered.
So the young doctor comes into my hospital room and starts asking me questions. As he is going over my medication list he asks, “So you’re on depo provera?”
I reply, “yes.”
He then says “You know that’s not a reliable form of birth control at your weight?”
I quickly sniped back, “don’t worry, my weight IS a reliable form of birth control. Can we focus back on the cellulitis, the actual reason I am here?”
I weighed 500lbs at the time, Super Morbidly Obese, I was on 100% birth control at the time, if you know what I mean.
But it’s not just patients who encounter weight bias and stigma, the second article addressed how patients act towards doctors who are overweight. We must remember doctors and other medical professional are human too, and face the same challenges we do. The article mentions Dr. George Fielding, a weight lose surgeon, who was overweight and found his patients questioned his ability because of his appearance. However, he was able to relate to the same struggles his patients were trying to overcome. Read the full article here: When the Doctor Is Overweight
- Have you experienced weight bias and stigma when seeking healthcare treatment?
- Have you ever not been able to have a test performed because the table or equipment could not accommodate your weight?
- Have you ever questioned a doctor’s advice because of his/her weight or habits?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.