Prejudice and Discrimination in the Doctor’s Office

I have a friend who is so beautiful you want to suggest that she model. She is also very overweight. She is well aware of her weight problem and it makes her miserable. This, in turn, sets up  an awful feedback loop in which she feels terrible because of her weight, which drives her to eat, which leads to weight gain, which makes her feel terrible.

Last week, she had horrific abdominal pain that kept her in bed for days. Why didn’t she go to the doctor? I asked. Because, she answered, she feared what the doctor would say about her weight and how she’d be treated–like a pariah who didn’t deserve medical care until she loses weight. The doctor will lecture her, look at her in disgust, and treat her disrespectfully, she said. She knows this because that’s how her gynecologist treated her. So she won’t go back which means she won’t receive needed medical care.

Her experience is not unique. Physicians are simply terrible at working with overweight patients. Studies find they often don’t diagnose patients with obesity, don’t understand the medical repercussions of obesity on overall health, attribute their patients’ weight to a lack of discipline, and … Continue Reading

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