Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Now another reason not to visit the doctor...

 I have not had the best of luck with doctors.  I have moved so often that I find it easier just to go to the walk-in clinic rather than bother with trying to find a GP in town that is still accepting patients (and good luck with that!).  As with any walk-in clinic, sometimes you get a good doctor, and sometimes you get a schlub. 

Speaking of schlubs, a recent study has revealed that doctors have similar levels of bias against people who are overweight as the general public.  Further, physicians are likely not aware of their own biases.

Previous research identified weight biases in doctors, but the new study found that their level of bias is similar to that of the public.  The study included nearly 360,000 participants, including 2,284 medical doctors. The researchers used a computer test designed to measure both explicit biases, of which people are aware, and implicit biases, which people do not recognize they hold.

Results showed that female doctors were less biased against obese people than male doctors. "Even though there was a slight difference, bias was strong among both men and women," the researches was quoted as saying. 

On the positive side, obese doctors were generally more sympathetic to overweight people, the study found. 

And that's not all.  There were also reports this summer about a GP in Worcester, MA, who made headlines after she went on record that she was no longer accepting patients who were obese.  The doctor said that her new policy (which applies to anyone who is obese and over 200 pounds, or someone with a BMI over 30) is a way to avoid injuries to health care providers and the subsequent loss of productivity.  I think it looks a lot like this is an example of the aforementioned fat-bias at work. 

I have to say that these results do not surprise me in the least.  My most recent interaction with a specialist involved a neurologist who was called in to consult on my carpal tunnel issues.  Without even examining me, the doctor told me that there was little point of doing anything to correct the carpal tunnel until I had lost weight, because my obesity was exacerbating the carpal tunnel. 

At what point is my obesity itself a health issue versus a contributing factor?  I would have to think that it depends on the condition.  I cannot think that my obesity would exacerbate an allergic reaction, or a cold/flu, but it would definitely affect knee or joint pain or lower back pain.  My mother has told me that fat affects all the organs in the body, so it may even be possible that obesity aggravates my carpal tunnel.

It is a fact that there are many obesity-related health issues that can get worse with time.  Type 2 diabetes is one such health problem that leaps to mind.  Heart disease is another.  Asthma is a third.  Delaying diagnosis and treatment of such conditions can negatively affect an individual's health. 

The issue with the Worcester doctor's position - - and my neurologist's position - - is that by fat shaming patients, it can cause patients to delay seeking medical care, explicitly or implicitly.  Either patients will be told to lose weight before they seek medical care, or they will undertake to lose weight on their own before seeking treatment.  This delay can be dangerous at times, depending on the condition in question. 

And fat shaming has impact.  I haven't gone back to that neurologist who would not consider treating my carpal tunnel, and I haven't visited the walk-in clinic in years.  I am pretty sure that I could use a checkup and physical, but I just can't stand the thought of being told that my conditions are all due to my obesity when I am working on that very problem.  Especially since it will take more than a year for me to reach a normal weight.  I just hope that nothing breaks in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. That doctor is a total asshole. You ARE losing weight and trying to improve your nutrition and health, but that takes a long time and can't be done overnight. Is the man suggesting that you simply suffer all ailments until you are at a healthy weight? One would think he would have been on board with all the positive changes that you have made. A good health care supporter is supposed to be supportive and help patients achieve lasting health. The thing is though that there are really awesome docs who will help you along the way, it can just take time to find one. I'd just go see somebody else, because you shouldn't have to wait a year if you have a problem right now.