Bolting Fat People’s Mouths Shut Is Not Healthcare

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“Medical Professionals” created a device to bolt fat people’s jaws shut. Subjects reported discomfort, speech issues, and feeling tense/embarrassed. Creators still claimed “there are no adverse consequences.” This is a grim reminder that many “medical professionals” do not view fat people as human, or deserving of ethical, humane healthcare.

I’ve had hundreds of people ask me to write about the bullshit new device created by UK and New Zealand researchers that bolts fat people’s mouths shut to keep them from eating.

TLDR: It is wrong and horrific on every level, and it would be wrong and horrific even if it was actually likely to lead to significant long-term weight loss, which it is not.

Content Note: This piece will describe violent anti-fat healthcare practices.

First of all, and I can’t believe I have to type this, it’s not ok to bolt people’s mouths shut. There are certainly situations in which wiring someone’s jaw is medically necessary, but bolting someone’s mouth shut for the express purpose of not allowing them to open it to eat is not now, nor will it ever be, a humane healthcare intervention.

Based on their article (which I will not be giving traffic to by linking) they are launching this based on the belief that the reason long-term weight loss fails so often is that fat people can’t submit to long-term starvation for long enough if we can open our mouths. Except that’s not remotely valid, research shows again and again that low-calorie dieting does not lead to long-term, sustained weight loss for more than a tiny fraction of people at best. They are also launching this based on the results of a two-week study (that’s not a typo – two weeks!)

During those two weeks the participants reported issues including discomfort, speech issues, feeling tense and embarrassed and decreased satisfaction with life, which the researchers completely ignored, claiming that there were “no adverse effects.” The researchers also pointed out that with the similar treatment of jaw wiring that was used in the past “many jaw-wired patients felt anxious and some developed acute psychiatric conditions. In addition, after 9-12 months, patients developed periodontal disease. After wire removal, a transient, and in some cases persistent, limitation of jaw movement was also observed.”

Also, the people regained their weight after their jaws were no longer wired shut. Completely unsurprisingly, the participants in this two-week study had already regained weight in the two weeks following the two weeks in which their jaws were bolted shut. Which may explain why they are trying to sell this based on a two-week study and the ludicrous idea that people can just keep taking it off and putting it back on. HAES Student Doctor has a great breakdown of this here.

If I had turned this in for a freshman level research methods class I cannot overstate how hard I would have (rightly) failed the assignment, so the fact that it both passed approval for human subject testing and was published is a testament to the amount of weight stigma in healthcare.

This is a grim reminder that many of the people who are impacting fat people’s healthcare believe that life as a fat person is a less than human existence, and thus any amount of inhumane treatment (including risking our lives) is worth it for even the smallest chance that we might get a tiny bit thinner even for a short time.

Again, the existing research is VERY CLEAR that extremely low-calorie liquid diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss and don’t “jump start” a weight loss journey because the human body is wired to see the complete lack of solid food and extreme caloric restriction as a famine situation, causing it to become a weight gaining, weight maintaining machine for our own protection. Of course that’s takes more than two weeks to see.

And again, whether or not it “works” is immaterial because it’s not ok to bolt people’s mouths shut to keep them from eating.

Finally, weight stigma in healthcare tells us to blame fat bodies for health issues, but that completely ignores the deleterious effects of weight stigma (which is perpetuated by the idea that fat people should have our mouths bolted shut,) weight cycling (which the research tells us will be perpetuated by this device,) and staggering inequalities in healthcare access (which include being told that rather than supporting our health in the bodies we have, it’s “healthcare” to bolt our mouths shut.)

This is barbaric and I think that every “medical professional” who willingly participated in this should be banned from the healthcare field forever. Starting with this guy…

Professor Paul Brunton
Lead researcher
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences
University of Otago

You can also cc the New Zealand Human Rights Commission:(with thanks to Justine for these links)


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16 thoughts on “Bolting Fat People’s Mouths Shut Is Not Healthcare

  1. From what I read, this device is (purportedly) only intended for short-term use as a way to help people who need certain kinds of surgeries to crash diet when their doctors are forcing them to lose weight before agreeing to perform the surgery. The immediate regain after the patients are granted their surgery and the device is removed is not the designers’ concern.

    Of course this is a lie – once this device is in short-term use for this purpose, it will then be marketed as a device to facilitate long-term dieting and weight loss (also doomed to fail).

    As awful, dehumanizing, and predatory as this is, my greatest fear is that people will pressure or force their teens (or even preteens), the incarcerated, people in inpatient facilities, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, poor people, and other vulnerable populations to have their jaws locked “for their own good” with no one to stop them and no oversight, making it a de facto torture device.

  2. Thank you for being the amazing, super-smart, and wonderful person that you are. I’m primarily a quiet reader of your work, but after years of being supported by your fact-based and strong voice, I wanted to say hello and thank you. I appreciate you very, very much.

    Kerry Ausmus

  3. I recall being bounced around between 3 different doctors before I could find one that would replace my knees w/o forcing me to starve myself. If one had asked me to let a device like this be installed, I would have said, “Only if you, as a gesture of support, let me staple and glue your butt closed for a while…” Or maybe I would have limited myself to saying they should have the exact same oral procedure done on themselves, and see if that changes their attitude a bit.
    The idea that this could be spread to other people unable to consent has me nervous, all right.
    I hope something gets me before I get helpless enough to fall into the hands of people like that.

  4. It would also “work” to amputate an arm and a leg to lose weight. Hey let’s do all 4 and go on the dole. Once we’re the proper weight, they’ll feed, clothe and love us, again, right? Right??

  5. I saw comments online about it ranging from awful to “but no one is MAKING them do it.” They liked that one a lot. If all you see is that they are not installing jaw bolt hardware in people’s mouths against their will, you see nothing.

    1. “but no one is MAKING them do it.”

      …which grossly underestimates the effect of power imbalances and coercion on decision-making. And that’s not even getting into what the posters above pointed out: that there are groups of people whose medical decisions are made for them who could have this device literally forced on them.

      1. Seriously. I read a quote. That it is a sign of power to be able to starve people, but how much more powerful to get people to starve themselves. Probably in Shadows On A Tightrope.
        Here’s one. A lot of women do not even breathe properly, because they are afraid of looking fat, or big, or their stomach bulging out too much if their diaphragm expands. Good God! If you are not willing to consume AIR because it might make you look fat, what the hell is LEFT!?

  6. If your moral compass has been so thoroughly fucked that you don’t already understand why it’s wrong to bolt someone’s mouth shut to prevent them from eating because you think they have been so naughty they deserve it, I do not know there’s anything I could say to convince you that’s wrong. I also don’t know if you should be around other people ever, Jigsaw.

  7. Trigger warning below — read at your own risk!

    This reminds me of the time my ex-husband suggested I try this new fake hot dog/food item to convince my brain I’d already eaten so that I’d eat less and, therefore, lose weight.

    That was 4-5 years ago and I still remember it. He never saw an issue with me being upset by such a suggestion.

  8. I had my jaw wired shut for two months following jaw surgery (necessary). When I tell you what a special kind of hell this is I speak from experience. It’s torture. Breathing is hard. It’s dehumanizing. You can’t speak. My teeth were horrible afterwards. And I lost like 20 lbs bc you cannot eat anything that isn’t completely smooth. To this day carnation instant breakfasts or any sweet dairy makes me gag. Everyone complimented my weight loss. Oh and you can’t talk. Or sneeze or cough. Or laugh. Or yawn. I was horribly depressed. And doctors told me after the fact that jaw surgery and wiring is among the most difficult foe patients because you look unrecognizable and cannot speak. Of course, it is different bc I was also recovering from surgery but why anyone would do this willingly (and a doctor prescribe it) under any circumstances is beyond me. And so sad. I was so desperate to eat that towards the end I un-wired myself – just super tight rubber bands holding my braces and teeth together – and shoved tiny bits of scrambled egg and cooked potato from clam chowder in my mouth. I regained all the weight within a couple weeks +++ from the deprivation.

    1. The scary thing is the people who see this as a good thing and proof that IT WORKS!
      When you hate people to the point they’re not human, they can and will do anything to you to make you human again.

  9. I had my teeth wired shut in my last month of high school, 1974. My Mom approved and paid for it, because, I conclude, I was worthless as a fat daughter, and any horrors were OK to make me not fat.
    No one mentioned that it is a DEATH TRAP: if you vomit, you die unless you can quickly cut the wires. I carried a wire cutter. I used it to cheat. i was so ashamed of the wires that somehow I ended up leaving the base wire for over a year, ruining several teeth. After the wire, I had asthma that needed treatment.

    How that was allowed I cannot understand. A mere dentist, Moomjian DDS, I’ll never forget, OK’d and did it.

    you can imagine what all this did to a woman just entering adult life and trying to build an identity. I could not complete courses and all sorts of things went wrong.
    I picked myself up over the years, but reading this brought it all back.

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