By J. D. Heyes
Increasingly, if you’re not a healthy person already, more and more doctors are shying away from you. In a profession where the axiom, “Do No Harm” is supposed to reign supreme, some physicians are saying “Don’t Come to Me” instead, especially for patients who are obese.
A few doctors in Florida have begun to turn away obese patients, claiming they come with too many health problems and risks. Some physicians who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology in particular, have set weight limits for new patients or other measures of obesity. Any woman who surpasses those standards is turned away.
“People don’t realize the risk we’re taking by caring for these patients,” said Dr. Albert Triana, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “There’s more risk of something going wrong and getting sued. Everything is more complicated with an obese patient in GYN surgeries and in [pregnancies].”
In the South Florida region alone, 15 OB/GYN practices out of 105 polled by the newspaper turned away obese patients. Some practices set weight limits of 200 pounds; others 250 pounds.
Part of the problem, say the physicians, is that obese patients tend to have more health issues. Another reason is continuity of practice; since obesity causes other medical problems, the doctors say they then have to send their patients to other physicians who specialize in those problems.
Doctors who specialize in OB/GYN practices have for years turned away pregnant women who are obese, referring them instead to specialists. But now, that trend is moving towards women who are not pregnant, just obese.
Not all physicians feel that way. Some area doctors interviewed by the paper said they would never consider turning away obese patients.
“If I had that policy, I wouldn’t have a practice. I’d lose half my patients,” Dr. Maureen Whelihan, a West Palm Beach OB/GYN said. “We never turn down anyone. We would see them, and if we had to, we would refer them to a specialist.”
Medical ethicists say doctors turning people away because of what is clearly a medical condition is just plain wrong.
“To refuse to even see a patient because they are overweight is not reasonable and not ethical,” said Dr. Charles D. Rosen, president of the Association of Medical Ethics, told CBS News.