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How your doctor’s fatphobia could cause real medical harm

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2022 | Medical Malpractice |

There is little question that many people directly correlate weight and health. In fact, there are some people who assume that everyone who is overweight is less healthy than someone who is smaller or thinner, despite plenty of medical evidence to the contrary.

Individuals come in many natural shapes and sizes, and people can be healthy even if they aren’t as slender as the current beauty ideal. Many observable characteristics beyond weight and body mass index influence someone’s health. Genetics, workplace chemical exposure and many other factors can contribute to medical conditions.

The aversion to larger body sizes is sometimes called fatphobia, and it influences many people’s daily lives. Unfortunately, doctors often let their personal biases impact the care that they provide their patients. Overweight patients, especially overweight women, are at risk of delayed or failed diagnosis because of the weight-related biases of by their primary care physician.

Some doctors will blame every medical issue on a person’s weight

You go to your doctor reporting symptoms like back pain or chronic insomnia. In theory, your doctor would have to sort through numerous possible medical conditions before determining the cause of your symptoms.

Sadly, if a patient is overweight, their doctor may simply jump to the conclusion that all of their issues are the results of their weight. The doctor may not order necessary testing. They may instruct the patient to lose weight and will deny them diagnostic testing or even symptom support, like pain management, until they reach certain weight loss goals.

The obvious problem with this approach is that doctors may drastically delay the diagnosis of a significant medical issue by assuming that excess weight is the only cause of someone’s symptoms.

Doctors should rule out other causes before reaching a conclusion

Nothing in medicine is absolute. Everybody is different, and doctors have to think about a person’s unique history and physiology when deciding how to treat them. When doctors let their anti-fat bias affect their diagnostic process or the level of care they provide their patients, they may set up the people that depend on them for negative medical outcomes.

Recognizing fatphobia is a contributing factor to medical malpractice can help you hold the doctor accountable for their inappropriate behavior.