Fact: A review of studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews in 2015 surveying empirical evidence across multiple disciplines showed that health care professionals’ negative feelings about fat bodies can lead to misdiagnosis and late or “missed” diagnoses, negatively impacting patient outcomes.
“Some doctors are egregiously nasty and inappropriate with their larger patients,” says Scott Kahan, M.D., a physician on faculty at Johns Hopkins University. “A patient of mine once went to urgent care short of breath only to be told that it was because she had ‘too much fat on her chest.’ Later, at the emergency room, they discovered she had a pulmonary embolism and needed anticoagulants. She’s lucky to be alive. Medical professionals’ underlying belief systems, driven by our thin-obsessed, antifat culture, can and does make their interactions with patients with obesity less productive.”
A patient describes being told to lose weight by a doctor who didn't know that she had just lost 70 lbs. He missed a diagnosis and the chance to help her:
“My hip hurt so badly I could barely walk from my car into work. I was sent to an orthopedist. I started to describe the pain I was in and he cut me off with ‘Let me cut to the chase—you need to lose weight.’ The funny thing is, I had recently lost 70 pounds, so if the pain was weight related, why would it be happening now? I started to cry and said to him ‘You’re not even listening to me. The only thing you’re seeing is my weight.’ In his report to my primary care physician, the orthopedist’s diagnosis was ‘obesity pain.’ When I finally worked up the nerve to go to another orthopedist, he took X-rays and discovered I had scoliosis—a 60-degree curve in my spine. My pain is much improved since I started physical therapy.”
—Patty Nece, obesityaction.org
This reminds me of my own orthopedist who wanted to solely blame my weight for my right knee pain despite my having injured it three times and my left knee being fine. Also--it's amazing how he stopped yelling at me when I brought my husband to the next appointment.