This Doctor is Testing My Compassion

Bad DoctorA doctor has written a piece called “A morbidly obese patient tests the limits of a doctor’s compassion.”  No power on this Earth will make me link to it.  It seems like the doctor wants an opportunity to revel in his prejudice while getting credit for being brave and talking about it.  What it ends up being is a guide to how healthcare goes wrong for fat people. This post may be very triggering – you can skip the indented portions and that may help.

Considering the piece is named “A Morbidly Obese Patient Tests the Limits of a Doctor’s Compassion” you might have some ideas about the patient’s behavior so I’m going to go ahead and give a spoiler – he tested the limits of the doctor’s compassion simply by existing.  Charming.  It does not get better.

The piece centers around a patient who went to the emergency room for treatment with stomach pain, and is fat.  In addition to being accompanied by a headless fatty picture.  Throughout the article, the doctor describes the patient in shockingly prejudiced language

a mountain of flesh

a prisoner in an enormous, fleshy castle

an oversize mirror, reminding us of our own excesses

This is not examining prejudice, it’s reveling in it.  This patient is not a metaphor, a mountain, a mirror, or a castle of fat.  He is a human being – a patient who has to suffer not just through pain, but through dealing with a series of health professionals who feel comfortable reveling in their bigotry often at the expense of his medical care.

The patient knows what’s up, he’s used to this:

He recites a litany of consultants he’s seen for his back pain, his headaches, a chronic rash on his ankles, his shortness of breath, his weakness, his insomnia and his fatigue.

“All of them have failed me,” he says, adding that the paramedics didn’t have the proper ultra-wide, ultra-sturdy gurney to accommodate his body.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act says that they should have the proper equipment to handle me, the same as they do for anyone else,” he says indignantly. “I’m entitled to that. I’ll probably have to sue to get the care I really need.”

I don’t quite know how to respond, so I say nothing.

How about responding by saying something like “That’s terrible. I’m so sorry that you haven’t been able to get good medical care.”  How about “I’m sorry that happened, I’m going to help you find [an advocate, a doctor who will help, something, anything.]”  How about saying “I’m sorry that we don’t have the proper equipment to treat you.”  How about responding with empathy, with compassion, by helping the patient get treatment for his health problems, instead of splashing around in a pool of your own prejudice?

“Don’t put him in a room right over the ER,” whispers the unit secretary to the admission clerk. “The floor won’t support him. He’ll come crashing through and kill us all.”

Glancing across the hall at the patient, I see by his eyes that he’s heard her comment, and I’m suddenly sure that he’s heard all of the side remarks aimed his way.

Does he apologize to the victim of this abuse?  Does he apologize for his role in the abuse?  Does he address the completely unprofessional behavior of the unit secretary?  Of course not!  He doubles down with more “poor everyone but the fat guy” language:

Finally, a slew of huffing, puffing, grunting attendants wheel him down the hall, leaving me to reflect on his plight.

He lies at the very large center of his own world — a world in which all the surgery mankind has to offer cannot heal the real pain he suffers.

We get it, the patient is heavy – if it was so hard for the attendants to push the guy down the hall than get more attendants, or find stronger attendants, or get equipment that helps people move people more easily, or act like it’s no problem for the sake of the patient, just like you should do for other patients who have issues that might be embarrassing or make the staff uncomfortable.

The belief – that [medicine] can’t heal the “real pain” of being fat – is often at the core of why doctors don’t provide competent care to fat people. Here’s a novel idea – do your fucking job and try.  See what happens when you treat fat patients without stigmatizing them, when you treat their actual health problems instead of diagnosing them as fat and prescribing weight loss (especially considering you don’t have anything to offer them in terms of changing their body size.) See what happens when you encourage people to appreciate the bodies they have and give them options to help them reach their goals. While you’re at it, see what happens if you actually examine your prejudice rather than selling fat people up river for catchy turns of phrase.

Perhaps this patient did share with the doctor that he has issues with what he considers to be compulsive eating , I don’t imagine that he did it so that the doctor could write a piece suggesting that this person’s experience is every fat person’s experience.  Disordered eating is something that affects people of all sizes and when healthcare professionals intimate that you can tell someone’s eating habits from looking at them, they do everyone a tremendous disservice.

The thing about the entire piece is that it is a self-absorbed exercise, written to make the doctor feel good about himself for “examining his prejudice” when really what he is doing is just heaping more stereotypes and stigma onto fat populations with the force of an MD behind it.

Having been called out on by commenters the doctor published an apology laced with the exact same issues as the piece:

We all have a burden in life; his was just larger and more apparent than most. The surgeon and the secretary were guilty of being judgmental and critical (much like some of the comments about my character here) because they were forgetting the man inside the patient.

Fat bodies are not burdens (though the stigma, shame and marginalization that is steeped upon us by people like this doctor can be.)  “Forgetting the man inside the patient” may be the absolutely more horrific thing he says in the article (and that is saying something.)  There is not a thin person inside fat people who deserves to be treated well.  The fat person in front of you deserves to be treated well as they are.  And neither the surgeon nor the secretary called him a “mountain” or “Fleshy castle” so maybe this doctor shouldn’t have exempted himself from the list of people who were guilty of being judgmental and critical.

This story was an attempt to relate a difficult encounter honestly and factually so that people (including me) could examine their own prejudices. It looks like it worked.

It’s a poor attempt and it didn’t work.  Had the doctor said “This story was an attempt to make myself look good while profiting from the stigmatizing of a fat person without his consent” then I suspect we’d be more in the ballpark.

Dear doctors – many of your are doing much better than this, thank you.  For those who aren’t, please start now.  Thanks.

If you are looking for a doctor who will treat you appropriately, consider the Cat Dragon List (if you know of such a doctor, consider posting them to the list.)

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78 thoughts on “This Doctor is Testing My Compassion

  1. Was the writer British? I’m certainly not excusing anything he wrote, but “consultant” is the British term for what we call “specialists.” He wasn’t invoking anything like Deloitte &Touche in that line.

  2. Ragen, I’m really glad you addressed his so-called apology. I am skeptical of the patient actually telling him he was eating 8,000 calories a day. I feel like that part was fabricated to try to make himself look better. I’ve had gallstones. I know how horrifically painful they are, and trust me, the last thing on my mind while in the ER from said pain was how many calories I was eating a day. Furthermore, when I was an active binge eater the LAST thing I ever did was count up how many calories I was eating.

    His “apology” is an attempt to staunch the blood people are drawing from his poor, beaten ego now that his attempt to make himself look like a decent human being while profiting from fat shaming has not given him quite the result he expected. This was my response to him, before I saw your blog post.

  3. Fascinating how that doctor thinks he’s being all understanding and compassionate there, while he’s nothing more than a dick the whole time! I looked up the original article. The part in the end where the “doctor” apparently lost appetite for his own dinner because he was thinking of his fat patient eating habits is just disgusting! I hate that sort of “here’s me sitting on my high horse, making a decision of eat less, so I won’t end up like that guy, because it’s all about just not giving in to one’s gluttony – plain and simple” mentality. Ugh, makes me want to punch the jerk in the face.

    “Doctors” writing articles like this is downright scary stuff. Because you might suspect that some of them judge you and “compassionately” make fun of you like that (but maybe not, right? We should believe the best of people after all, shouldn’t we?), but then to get confirmation that the worst things you could imagine were actually true….

    1. Right. Many doctors would assume that I sit around on my 300 pound ass eating entire cakes at a setting. In reality, since being diagnosed with diabetes and having to go on a diet allowing me 200 grams or less of carbs a day, I have very little appetite. Sometimes I actually have to force myself to eat, because starving oneself can cause blood sugar spikes.

  4. Dear Doctor Smeghead,

    If one truly intends to examine one’s own prejudices, one does not assume that simply using all the insulting language one can think of constitutes an examination. One must actually sit down and contemplate the difference between one’s automatic gut reactions and the ideal way of treating the actual person before one. Then one must catalogue the differences and resolve to do better at treating people in the ideal way rather than according to the automatic responses one has developed over the years of thoughtless cruelty and ignorance.

    For instance, one might note that one has utterly dismissed out of hand the patient’s list of efforts he has made to find pain relief. One might note that people who say unprofessional – and wildly insulting – things in the hearing of the patient ought to be reprimanded for this, rather than waffly thinking it and not mentioning it to the culprit. One might make an effort to convince the hospital to acquire the (legally required under the ADA) equipment that will make it easier for both attendants and emergency workers to tend patients of size. One might wonder at one’s own assumption that all the pain is self-induced.

    But no. You simply trotted out the old tropes with blissful disregard to whether any of them are true of this patient – or indeed of any patient. Your smug assurance that you know better is the sort that resulted a few months ago in my husband spending three nights in the hospital with pneumonia and complications of congestive heart failure when his doctor kept insisting he just had indigestion from eating so damn much.

    Your attitude is why so many patients suffer for months, years, even decades with issues that could have been handled easily and inexpensively at the outset had you not insisted that every ill can be cured through weight loss. Your attitude is why thin people who have diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension don’t get the help they need because those are ‘fat people’s diseases’ so you don’t feel the need to screen vigorously if the patient isn’t fat. Your attitude is why this man is not getting the help he needs. The problem isn’t his self-centeredness and overindulgence, but YOUR PREJUDICE AND DISGUST.

    Fuck you very much,


      1. I really can’t come up with the spoons just now to even find the article to do so. But if you’d like to pass it on to him, preacherjean, be my guest. Just leave off the Dr. Smeghead and the Fuck you very much bits. They vented my feelings beautifully here, but if I’d been composing a reply directly to him I wouldn’t want to give him the ammunition.

        The rest of it I consider my atheist version of fire and brimstone (Hey, I was raised by a lapsed Catholic and a cultural Presbyterian! I know from righteous fury! And megaguilt) and am perfectly happy to stand by it.

        1. Aw rats, they were my favorite parts! I might be in same boat as you, regarding not having the energy or gumption to find it myself, but if I do stumble on it I’ll pass on your (edited) words.

          1. Even if you don’t pass it on to him, feel free to show it to anyone you please… in which case you can leave it unedited.

  5. The comments that the patient is “…an oversize mirror, reminding us of our own excesses. It’s easier to look away and joke at his expense than it is to peer into his eyes and see our own appetites staring back,” makes the MD sound like what he is REALLY saying is, “We have seen the enemy, and they are US–or our own APPETITES, at least.”

    And the “700 calorie dinner?” The MD sounds at least a bit martyr-ish. “I push the food around on my plate, then give up and head back to the ER, ready to see more patients.” And what is his inference regarding the latter? On to NEW patients who are easier to treat because they AREN’T obese?

    Ragen, THANK YOU for revealing this “empathetic” MD for who and what he really is: a transparent opportunist who is making excuses for his own prejudices.

  6. I CANNOT believe that this asshole wants a cookie for being bigoted. I’d *love* to quote his statements back to his face, modified to read, say “black man” or “gay man” instead of “fat man”, and see if he was even capable of shame over his bigotry.

    And seriously?!?! “A world in which all of the surgery mankind has to offer cannot heal the real pain he suffers”?!?! Well, here’s a thought, you big jerk: even if that’s true (and I’m not convinced it is, seeing as you don’t appear to have diagnosed him with anything other than “fat”), perhaps you could make an effort to see that medicine doesn’t CAUSE him more pain while you’re busy not helping him.

  7. Yes, surgery cannot cure the pain caused by prejudice.

    Also, this doctor doesn’t actually understand what the word ‘compassion means.’ He has no empathy whatsoever. I suspect he doesn’t know what empathy means either.

    I can’t help but wonder how he could be a competent doctor without eating a decent meal. It must have affected his ability to think and focus, even if he didn’t recognize it.

    I’m gonna go look at cat pictures.

  8. well, the article was honest in that all too many health professionals think it’s ok to talk trash about fat patients, usually behind their back, but all too often loud enough for the patient to hear. fat — surprise! — does not insulate people from getting hurt, and somebody who is already in the ER does not need extra pain inflicted on them. and this doctor considers himself empathetic because he didn’t express any of his negative opinions within the patient’s hearing — at least not right then and there. by now, of course, said patient might have read them in the washington post. bet that makes him feel great.

    as a former EMT, i recognize the attitude; everyone who appears like they could have avoided their condition seems like they take up more than their share of time, and that rubs people the wrong way when they have to rush around trying to save lives. i empathize with the difficulties very heavy patients present to health care personnel who’re often not equipped to handle them well, especially when said personnel are also under stress and time pressure in an emergency situation. i’ve been there; trying to lift somebody heavy and large in a small space when time is of the essence can be very very difficult, and it might even be impossible (i was never faced with 600 lb; our crew couldn’t have handled that).

    but that attitude is not a healthy attitude to have, and our doctor here should take his co-workers to the side and talk with them about actual empathy and professional behaviour rather than vent his pseudo-empathy in an article. because we cannot actually judge whether a patient could have avoided zir condition, nor should we. that is not our job as emergency care workers. and special accommodation requirements are not unique to fat patients. patients who don’t speak the common language present special problems, patients who are unconscious, patients who’re not compos mentis, patients with serious mobility issues (not fat), small children without accompanying guardians, etc etc etc. it’s unprofessional to judge and snark at any patient, and lack of empathy does not promote one’s own good mental health.

    my compassion has always been tested more by arrogant doctors than by patients.

    1. I can sympathize in the sense that its the employers’ responsibility to ensure safe working conditions. However, we’ve been saying the ‘cure’ doesn’t work and we’ve been attacked and silenced for it.

      If the truth had been acknowledged, the situation would have been better in every way.

      Its the arrogance of those who can believe their suppression of reality could change it. That’s what leaves people cold.

  9. This really hits home for me. In December I had a left knee replacement done. Medical personnel in the hospital had prejudice from the beginning to the end of my two day stay. Judgment’s were made about me before the staff even worked with me. When I returned home from the hospital they called to do a survey and I really let them have it on the awful care I experienced. Of course I have never heard anything back from the hospital. I let my doctor know as well at my follow up visit with him. He and I discussed going to a different hospital for my right knee replacement in April. He apologized for the rudeness of the hospital staff. He explained to me that he did not want to perform the next surgery in the other hospital because of poor sanitary conditions in that hospital. Luckily, even though I received substandard treatment, I am strong enough to speak up and demand respect and dignity for my own needs and I did. In April I plan on screaming even louder if I am not heard. What this patient went through brings me to tears this morning. It really sucks having the medical industry treat us so unfairly. By the way, the left knee replacement has been a total success!

  10. OK….this is HORRIBLE, for sure. All of your comments pointing out that this doctor is delusional to think that he has shown any compassion at all, are right on the mark.

    I have personally experienced situations much like this one, though not quite as extreme. Or, at least I did not realize they were as extreme, possibly because I was never privy to *all* of the thoughts going on in my doctors’ heads. This article lets us into the doc’s inner thoughts. I only got bits and peices of my doctor’s thoughts, which came through by accident.

    Anyway, that being said, I think what this article does best is to make abundantly clear just how ubbelieveably IGNORANT medical professionals can be about obesity. Most people look to doctors as fountains of knowledge about almost everything, and yet, they just aren’t. That is especially clear to those of us who suffer from this issue, and have spent considerable time and effort learning what it’s REALLY all about, through both study and firsthand experience. The doctor’s misbehavior and misunderstandings are very clear to us. But we are a special case! We know! We’re educated on the issue!

    I think doctors are even more vulnerable to misinformation and misunderstandigs about obesity than most people, because medicine is an old and very conservative field of study. That’s slowly changing, but traditionally it has taken a very long time for new knowledge about various diseases to make it’s way into the general consciousness of medical professionals.

    Philosophoically, we all – including perhaps especially doctors and other medical professionals – need to learn to quit judging other people. All of us are doing the very best we are capable of at any given point in time, even when what we are doing is not any good at all. There are always reasons for why humans are who thery are, why they do what they do. There are reasons why this doctor did what he did, mainly in my estimation, ignorance, and indoctrination into beliefs that led him to honestly believe he understood what makes people fat, and beleive that they are just behaving badly, that they are the cause of their own problems.

    No, I’m not saying any of his horrible behaviors were acceptable in any way. However, just like obesity, they have root causes that were beyond his ability to control. Hopefully, after posting this article in public and receiving reactions to it, he will start to get an education about obesity, so he can improve his treatment of fat people in the future, and gain some true empathy for their side of the experience.

  11. I read this article when it first came out, never saw the apology, and now won’t bother to. One thing that struck me was that morphine was given to the patient…and the “doctor” admitted that it seemed to barely affect him! Something about it making him a little drowsy.

    This doctor was worse than lousy, he seemed fairly incompetent. The patient was suffering and was not being helped. Deal with the thoughts and introspection on your own time…NOW is the time to deal with the pain.

  12. For anyone who is interested in giving a piece of your mind to this ultimate of fat shaming bigots, here is his current address.

    Dr. Edward Thompson
    Frederick Primary Care Associates
    610 9th Ave
    Brunswick, MD 21716

    1. Thanks. It’s important that all the personal details get out for these guys so that they can be exposed for what they are. I don’t plan on writing him, that’s a hell of a lot of money for postage now, but if they realize that we’ve “got their number” then they might be more scared of acting “high and mighty” next time.

        1. Seems Acme Corp’s site has been taken down, I was planning on sending him an exploding cigar.

          *A note for those unfamiliar with American cartoons. I’m referring to a gag from 1920’s era cartoons. I’d never suggest sending anyone something that could actually harm them.

  13. Horrible and horrifying… but we need to hear about this. Thanks for shedding light in the dark corners, Ragen.

  14. I imagine many of us have stories of our suffering at the hands of prejudiced medical practitioners. Sometimes it’s “just” being shamed, but other times our health is severely jeopardized. A number of years ago, I was taken the the ER following a boating accident. I was treated by a doctor who could barely conceal his disdain for this soaking wet, disheveled fat woman. He acted as though I was being dramatic when I complained about pain and did not even remove any of my clothing to do a visual examination of my body. I was sent home with a prescription for pain medication. I spent the night vomiting from a concussion, and awake with severe pain in my lower back. Going to my PCP for a follow-up as I felt so awful it was revealed that I had trauma to my liver and one of my kidneys. My right kidney completely shut down due to the force of impact. Had they properly examined me at the hospital, they might have been able to repair the damaged vessel. ANYWAY…I have since learned that I need to advocate for myself and demand proper treatment. I am older and wiser, and no longer permit anyone to treat me poorly due to my size.

  15. Editorials like his are the reason “fat people who stand up for themselves are just making excuses!” burns my ass so badly. Look at this thin guy. He’s just spent a whole post, plus apology, doing nothing but making excuses… excuses for the disgust he felt towards a man he knew nothing about, excuses for his inability to treat a patient based on his body just being too weird, excuses for all the doctors who failed to treat the patient before him, excuses for ADA protocol not being followed, excuses for his coworkers who didn’t even bother to disguise their contempt for the patient in his earshot, and in his apology, excuses for his excuses. And WE’RE the ones “justifying ourselves?” In what bizarro-world?

    1. You make an excellent point. He got so busy trying to justify his inner ugly that he never once got past “But… but… I have *good* reasons for being a bigot…” in his mind. If he were really examining his prejudices, he’d move on to questioning WHY he feels the way he does about his patient’s supposed outer ugly.

      He’d consider why, as a physician, he would feel entitled to violate the Hippocratic Oath just because a patient is fat.

      Think, for a moment, about what he could have done to be supportive — or even condemn the behavior of the hospital employees.

      Maybe even give some thought as to why people weren’t terribly supportive of him when he intentionally subjected the world to his hateful thoughts.

      And, if he was having a very, very introspective day, perhaps even give some thought to the irony of trying to explain his own hate as “rational” in an attempt to force a fat man to justify his very existence.

    2. It’s strange, I know children with better manners. Maybe they just are there for the paycheck. It’s difficult to screen doctors for prejudices like this, because they can just lie and say they’re unbiased. I think sometimes it helps to remember there are doctors out there who get it, while this buffoon hopefully has sealed the removal of his license with this article.

      I would think if any doctor was whining like a child about how fat people make their job difficult people could go to another doctor, but I know depending on your insurance that may not be possible. I just don’t get anyone who’d think his article length tantrum is brave. Oh the poor oppressed ccchhiilllddd, he can’t be a bully anymore. Crying about their “fweedumb of speech”.

  16. Honestly, this article upset me so much yesterday that I almost couldn’t function. I’ve had good luck with doctors for the most part and have been spared significant health problems thus far in my life. When I visit a new doctor, I bring the letter I modeled on the one on the Cat & Dragon site, and I make sure it prominently mentions my academic credentials. I also try to dress very nicely and play up my family. In other words, I take advantage of every ounce of privilege I have, given that I am also death fat. None of that privilege should matter, but I know it does.

    What scares me is knowing that there will be a time when my visit to a medical professional is not so controlled–in an accident, or a stroke or some other emergency medical issue. The person who sees me won’t know about my degrees, my kids, my husband, my privilege. I’ll be just another fat woman who brought whatever the problem is on myself. Is that going to mean that I end up dying because I’m not perceived as being worth the fight? God, it’s awful. I’m fighting back tears right now.

  17. “…THEY were forgetting the man inside the patient”, not the smug son of bitch physician. I lost a friend to cancer because oncologist/surgeon would not touch her during exams. He told her husband that he had no surgical instruments for people of her size. He “thought” he got all of the tumor. I hope her husband chose to pursue a wrongful death charge against the “doctor” after she was gone. He may have been too hurt and exhausted. Deb Lemire included her story in Deb’s one woman show “For Beauty’s Sake”.

  18. In all fairness, according to the doctor, he didn’t give the piece that title, and has disputed its accuracy. However, I do agree with you about the tone of the article. It really left me with a bad feeling.

  19. I´ve had so many problems with Drs over this issue. Over a year ago I had something large growing in my abdomen. It eventually turned out to be a cyst the size of a grapefruit, which was pressing against my spine. When I first went to my dr, she barely touched me, told me nothing was wrong, and that if I lost weight, my back would feel better. It took 6 weeks before I had the courage to try another dr, and only because I could feel the thing growing rapidly. Luckily, I found several wonderful, compassionate, nonjudgmental doctors who did not make me feel less than.

    1. I too had a grapefruit cyst on my ovary. I was 11 when I had surgery and they found it. Previous to that it was viewed as bladder infection, constipation, (possibly) hysteria. At the time of surgery they thought it was appendicitis, so my surgeon was actually an appendectomy specialist, and when they opened me up, and saw that the append. was fine but I had a huge cyst, she had to go find another surgeon. I wasn’t fat at the time, but my parents thought I was, and said that the pain was from being too fat.

      When I discussed the surgery with my “current” doctor (haven’t been back in 2 yrs now), he said they should have left it in, and that having a cyst twisted over twice and killing the ovary and tubes was exaggeration.

        1. Thanks for the support. I’m in my early 30s now, so I’ve been without for over 20 yrs, I just have 1 ovary left.

          The surgeon said that she’d never seen a cyst in a child before, and that they were “relatively” common in older women. I’ve heard from the woman who used to run the Campus Ministry that a family friend’s daughter who was 8, also had a cyst. There must be something weird going on to have such a large thing in your body when you’re a child.

    2. A friend of mine had an ovarian cyst, it went untreated for years because doctors just assumed her issues were caused by PCOS, it wasn’t. The cyst grew into a tumor and after being in such severe pain she couldn’t move she went to the ER. They finally treated her, removed the massive cyst, and she ended up losing one of her ovaries. Pheromones original obgyn wouldn’t listen to her symptoms and none of the doctors she saw after that would either. She lost an ovary because her doctors wouldn’t treat her because she was fat.

  20. I found the article and I’ve gotta’ say it has everything you could want in order to swear off human interaction forever. I saw the poor, beleaguered doc whining about his hurt feelings and crying about how they edited that piece of crap totally without his permission you guys!!11 and the requisite number of dipshit commentators giving their inspirational stories about “discipline” and how your fat is all about PHYSICS, Maaaaaaaaaaan!!11 and blah blah blah.

    I’m gonna’ go for a walk and never ever return to the internet ever. It’s been nice knowing y’all, especially the surprisingly high number of people who called Dr. Jerkwad and his pet fat-shamers out over there. If I see you fine people out on the road somewhere, I promise I’ll buy you a beer at the nearest roadside store. 😉

      1. Thanks, Mich. However, the winking smilie was meant to indicate that I was being just a wee bit facetious about leaving forever.

        I was, however, dead serious when I said that it was a pleasant surprise seeing a number of brave souls call out Dr. Jerkwad for his shitty POV underneath that horrible thing he wrote.

  21. I know I’ve seen articles somewhere that recommend bringing a friend or family member with you to advocate during hospital stays (as the patient is likely to be unable to). Is it possible to bring an advocate during doctor visits? Maybe talk with people you trust who can advocate during emergency situations?

  22. This is perhaps a slightly different topic – I hope not – but does anyone else feel that interactions with the health care system require us as fat people to simultaneously show how healthy we are (in order to debunk all those stereotypes and be treated with respect) and also really insist that docs take our symptoms seriously (in order to actually be treated)? I am stuck at this particular place right now and don’t quite know how to proceed. Suggestions?

  23. I have no doubt whatsoever that the author of this hateful piece of entitled, poor-me garbage is British. Take the attitudes prevalent in the US medical profession and throw in our current climate of finger-pointing at supposed drains on the welfare state and sorting people into the deserving and undeserving poor sick etc and you have fat hate on steroids. And yet people still come on my FB page and into other debates and claim that fat people and certain prominent fat acceptance bloggers fail to afford doctors the appropriate level of respect commensurate to their position of professional authority and status in society.

    This article is a prime example of why the experiences reported by fat people in healthcare settings are, far from being untrustworthy exaggerations as often claimed, in fact, entirely valid and indeed are most likely just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve come across many such examples firsthand, from the sickening bigotry displayed on a forum frequented by doctors and surgeons that I once stumbled across (and will not link to here), to the surgeon who performed my wife’s emergency C-section’s complaints, within both our earshot, that she’d ‘broken’ the operating table which because it wouldn’t elevate would result in her having a bad back from having to bend over, to the indifference and lack of interest shown by doctors throughout the weekend of our son’s birth, in contrast to many of the other mums, to the possibly fatal delay caused by being forced to see a dietician who claimed that she ‘must be’ lying about her eating habits as it was impossible for anyone to be stable at 320lbs on less than 1500 calories.

    The part about forgetting the person inside the fat body hit home. Heather had been so beaten down from years of fat-phobic interactions with doctors, teachers, social workers, basically, anyone in authority, that I began attending doctor’s appointments with her in a desperate attempt to try and advocate for her and help get the care she needed. She used to tell me that when she walked into the doctor’s office she was made to feel that they didn’t see a wife, a mom, a person, but a hypochondriac fat blob that was to be pushed through and gotten rid of as quickly as possible. They didn’t know that she liked to sleep with her head on my shoulder, that she would only sing when she thought no-one was listening, that she loved cats or vampire books or the fall or haveing her hair brushed by someone else. That she had an inner Goth / alternative side that she’d always been afraid to express because she drew enough attention as it was… that she would make me a packed lunch the night before and write sweet little notes for me to find when I opened it up.

    On the night she passed away and through my tears and shock I told the paramedics who would retrieve her from our home (down two flights of steep Victorian stairs) that I understood that they hated dealing with people of Heather’s size but that she was my everything and that had they met her in life they’d have thought she was awesome, as did anyone who bothered to get to know her. As such, could they please treat her with respect and not say anything horrible about her weight. The assured me that they would take as much care with her and ensuring her dignity as they would any thin person. It was probably the first time either of us had ever heard that from medical professionals.

    1. I am so sorry that you and she had to deal with all of that. I wish I could apologize on behalf of the whole human race. Thank you for sharing your story.

      1. Richard, I am so sorry. I’m crying for Heather and for you. How lucky she was to have someone who loved her so much, and how lucky you were to have her. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    2. God I’m crying at work, luckily there’s no one to see. That is truly terrible to hear what both of you went through.

      I’m glad men come forward on these blogs/sites to tell their stories too. It’s not just us women who suffer, the other half also suffers, sometimes in silence. It just have been extremely hard to tell us your story.

    3. I’m so sorry for your loss, and sorry that you and Heather had to deal with unprofessional medical “professionals,” and just a generally cruel society.

    4. Thank you for sharing your story Richard. You and Heather were so lucky to have found each other, and for sharing such a beautiful love.

  24. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    When I was in nursing school (a real bastion of fat-phobic thinking) and the program director/instructor asked students what kinds of patients they didn’t want to work with, several of my classmates said “obese people.” The instructor nodded her head knowingly. I was disgusted and horrified. I had not yet discovered Size Acceptance, but I finally spoke up and said “I think the reason that so many of you are prejudiced against fat people is that we’re very visible.” I don’t know if I got through to anybody, but I couldn’t sit by and endure that kind of hatred unchecked.
    When I was doing my clinicals, I took care of several extremely heavy patients. One of them weighed about 425 pounds. She was bed-bound , which was a fairly recent thing for her. Her kidneys were no longer removing toxins from her system. She said “never in my life have I felt so weak and helpless.” One day when I came in to assist her, a doctor was there lecturing her and her husband on their need to lose weight. How about addressing the freaking kidney problem, and whatever other underlying medical problems she’s in the hospital for first? Gaaaah!
    I noticed that this woman was on an extremely high dose of statin drugs, way out of safe ranges in fact. I’m not a pharmacist, nor am I a doctor, but I could not see anything in her presenting medical history that would indicate such a high dose of statins being called for. Statins can cause muscle pain and weakness, and I wondered if in such a high dose, they might also cause kidney damage.
    The other very large woman we assisted was depressed almost to the point of catatonia. She was fairly well unable to assist us in any way. It took four of us to turn her. Fortunately, nobody expressed any hateful attitudes towards her. The hospital nurse explained to her what we would be doing and we did our best to make sure the experience was as comfortable as possible for her.
    Another of the larger patients I assisted also had kidney issues. She was a thirty year old woman who had three kidneys. One of these kidneys was atrophied, and it seemed to be causing problems. It was a real head scratcher that the attending physician was recommending lap band surgery rather than removal of the atrophied third kidney.
    The fourth woman was an older lady who had broken her shin. She was able to help the staff with turning and positioning, and was an “easy” patient.
    Weight can be important, as in cases of kidney dysfunction, where one needs to check weight to see if the patient is retaining excess fluid or if treatment is helping them. It should never be used as a weapon for making people feel badly.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Using “lose weight” as the order that will cure all ills is lazy medicine, and it gets people killed. It actually harms people with thin body types too, as they are assumed automatically to be healthy, so no-one checks for underlying problems.

    1. Is it possible for you to tell us how those events turned out? Or did they all suffer until the end?

      It’s also telling when the “lose weight” cure-all isn’t prescribed to thin ppl. If it’s really that great, shouldn’t it work better on them? /sarc.

  25. I feel for this gentleman, and I’m enraged that he had to endure that kind of treatment from the very people who are supposed to alleviate suffering.
    Trigger warning for medical abuse:
    But this does not surprise me one little bit. I’m 60 years old, have been DEATHFATZ for 38 of those years, and have been told for that whole time that I’ll be dead in 5 years if I don’t lose at least half of my weight immediately. 28 years ago, a GP didn’t want to refer me to a surgeon to have my gallbladder removed, even though I’d had several severe attacks. The surgeon over-ruled him and did the surgery anyway. Funny thing about that – it didn’t take me nearly as long to recover as the GP said it would, I healed much faster than he thought I would, and I didn’t have any of the complications he predicted. And just 5 years ago, I was told by my then-doctor that my enlarged thyroid was nothing to worry about. Not what I was told by the endo I had to find and demand a referral to. I ended up having to have my thyroid removed – a 3 1/2 hr operation that took 4 1/2 hrs because my thyroid was so enlarged. What really enrages me is that these doctors will refuse to refer fat people for any kind of surgery because it’s just “too dangerous” to operate on fat people – unless, of course, they’re recommending that you have your digestive system mutilated. (sarcasm)That surgery isn’t at all dangerous for fat people (/sarcasm).

  26. That is messed up. I’m glad so many people called him out in the comments on the original article–maybe he’ll do some serious reflection.

  27. I started to comment here, but then turned it into a blog post of my own. I didn’t want to take up your space, so if anyone’s interested in reading what would have been my comment (I did link the original article) click here.

    1. Loved your blog post. Really lovely takedown of this jerk who can’t discern the difference between sanctimonious pity and compassion.

      Now that I’ve read the whole ridiculous, steaming pile of purple prose he vomited into the public consciousness, I’ve also noticed some really bad “medicine” in there —

      While I’m sure he felt that the “8,000 calories” snark was just lyrical genius on his part, there’s a big problem there: it takes well fewer than 5,000 calories per day for a sedentary man of average height in his 40s to maintain a weight of 600 pounds. You’d think a 700-calorie-per-meal-eating ER doc would know that, wouldn’t you?

      I hate that the subject of the article has passed away. But I am glad he never had to know this was written and published.

  28. So I’m a “prisoner” in my “fleshy castle,” am I?

    Okay, then I fart in his general direction. The silly English doke-tor.

    1. Muahahahahaha! Your mother was a Kia hamster and your father smelt of acai berry!

      Metal name for a band, though. “Palace of Flesh.” Sounds like an opening act for Cradle of Filth.

          1. It certainly is… though my comment (and I might have made this plainer) was to the Cradle of Filth reference. The IT Crowd is also excellent for perspective.

            And if you haven’t seen it, go thou forth and do so right away. Seriously, I have the distinct impression you’d love it.

              1. It’s available on Netflix, including streaming, and I know there are a lot of scenes up on YouTube. Very funny stuff.

  29. This doctor doesn’t know the meaning of compassion! he’s forgotten that every patient he treats is a human being, no matter what HE might think. He signed up to treat sick people, not to judge people because they are sick and he thinks (but doesn’t KNOW) it’s their fault.

    I read your blog every week and I just wanted to say thank you – there are so many times I have almost clicked to post a thank you and not. But I guess today’s the day. You have opened my eyes and educated me, given me a different perspective, and contributed to my determination to one day be someone who can get out there and change something for the better for those who are marginalised and/or oppressed in some way. Thank you for giving me hope because you aren’t afraid to get up there and say something against what is wrong, despite it putting you in the line of fire even more. I think you will find that for every ‘hater’ you get, there are at least 10 quiet readers who are thanking you for being sane in an insane world.

    1. …and my heart goes out to the patient in that story. I am so sorry he wasn’t able to get the basic care he deserved and was subject to such unprofessional, prejudiced practice. Just from the symptoms you listed, he sounds extremely sick and uncomfortable and probably wouldn’t have gotten that sick had his doctors treated his illnesses in the first place instead of letting their prejudice run rampant. I hope he gets the help he needs and gets better.

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