Obesity rates in the U.S. are soaring: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than one third of Americans (35.7%) are obese.
Not only is obesity common, it is also both serious and costly. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
But does all that that make it acceptable for a doctor to turn away a patient for being overweight?
That’s what happened to Ida Davidson of Shrewsbury, Massachussetts, when she made a second visit to a new primary care physician, Dr. Helen Carter, and was informed that the doctor would not accept her as a patient. According to WCVB, Dr. Carter has recently implemented a policy of turning away folks who are heavy.
How did Ms. Davidson respond? From WCVB:
“I can’t believe and I did say that out loud, ‘I can’t believe you guys just said that to me.’ I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life,” Davidson said.
Davidson said she is a “little overweight.” The incident on Wednesday occurred during a second visit to Dr. Helen M. Carter at the doctor’s Worcester office.
Davidson said she believes, “I may be high risk for her and too much work is what I felt.”
She said Carter focused on weight.
Dr. Carter defended herself by saying that she’s had three consecutive injuries (with other patients) trying to care for people over 250 pounds, and so has decided that her office is unable to accommodate a certain weight.
She told NewsCenter 5 it’s a matter of “self preservation for herself and her employees.”
The policy sounds heartless, but it is not illegal.
The American Medical Association’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs policy reads “Both patients and physicians should be able to exercise freedom in whom to enter into a patient-physician relationship … physicians do not give up their freedom of association by merely becoming professionals.”
Dr. Carter has the legal right to turn away a patient, but the fact that this was Ida Davidson’s second visit is a little strange. It’s fairly common for popular doctors to refuse to accept new patients, but not after there has already been one appointment. It also seems like a really bad idea from a business point of view. There are plenty of women (and men) over 200 pounds, as the CDC points out, and it seems wrong for Dr. Carter to simply ignore them.
What, does she only want thin patients in her office?
According to NewsCenter 5, Ms. Davidson said her situation was not handled with compassion, adding, “She didn’t care about my health that day. I think she just cared that I was a liability to her and maybe too much work.”
Most women would feel entirely demoralized to be treated like this, and would most likely be too embarrassed to seek further medical advice. Ms. Davidson, on the other hand, has vowed to find a new doctor.
Good for her!
What do you think? Was Dr. Carter acting appropriately when she refused to treat Ida Davidson?
Photo Credit: screenshot from CNN video