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Doctor Refuses To Treat Woman Who Is “Too Heavy”

Doctor Refuses To Treat Woman Who Is “Too Heavy”

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?

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374 comments

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12:17AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

"I said it because that's how I and quite a few other people perceive you: As Care2's self-appointed policewoman who never hesitates to chastise and bitch at people for posting in any way that annoys you."............Shan, you said it because apparently you don't take the same advice you deal out to others, particularly, me. You know speak for others on Care.2...........really? You're the one coming across as the "Care.2" police. I'm certainly not chastising anyone, nor am I "bitching" at anyone. I pointed out the fact the discussion is quite old. You're the only one criticising anyone for their posting STYLE. I don't care if you uncheck the box to track or not, nor if you read what I say, but something tells me that your ego will necessitate for you to do exactly as you claim you won't. I don't NEED to have "the last word", nor will I turn tail and run from a bully. If you address me by name, I will respond to it "accordingly".

11:51PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

I said it because that's how I and quite a few other people perceive you: As Care2's self-appointed policewoman who never hesitates to chastise and bitch at people for posting in any way that annoys you. My advice stands: Uncheck the box and never worry about it again. I'm going to do that myself now, so go ahead and have the last word you always want. I won't see it.

11:23PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Shan, please explain WHY it was necessary to put that last part in your suggestion/advice? Yes, I know I can "uncheck" the top box. I never said anyone had to get MY permission to comment, just pointed out how old this discussion happens to be. If I did things YOUR WAY, I'd uncheck every discussion I have ever participated in to prevent any "updates" becoming apparent. Usually, these things die out a "natural death" all by themselves. Suggestion, does the term "MYOB" mean anything?

10:31PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Diane, if you don't want to be bothered by somebody choosing to reply to an old article, why don't you just make sure the "get comment replies via email" box is unticked? Then you won't notice if somebody dares to reply to it without your permission.

3:47AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

OMG, is this discussion being dragged out AGAIN? Does somebody do this on purpose or the member who commented on Feb. 5th not notice how old it was? I hope by now, the obese woman has found a doctor who will accept her as a patient and other obese people will take whatever appropriate measures they need IF they seek medical help, but it seems silly to drag all this up again.

9:49AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

I've had to fire doctors, over 50 of them by last count, because they operated by Ins rules and would only give me 15 minutes, ordered me to do what they demanded, and would not answer my questions. Another few refused to accept me as a patient, because I asked to participate in my own care, selfpay and set ground rules for our relationship. There is no requirement for a doctor to continue treating a patient, esp when maybe the "patient" refuses to or indicates that she/he will not do what is in the patient's self interest. Compassion is not taught in medical school or the bull excrement "ethics" classes doctors go through, nor is it a "requirement" of the doctor/patient relationship. Doctors are not, as they and we think all too often "GOD" or our bosses. They are tools, employees who purport to know what is best, medically. I do not agree with the medical paradigm in this country. I do believe in health and personal responsibility and self knowledge. I know more about me than any doctor and maybe will seek advice but not conclusions from any doctor.
This article is very stupid. The woman complaining has not a thing to complain about. The doctor was smart to refuse her; she sounds like trouble and possibly litigious, certainly a "victim" in her own mind. Just maybe, the woman refused to consider she wouldn't need a doctor if she lost weight and took care of herself.

8:38AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

Dont doctors have to make a vow to always help people or something?

8:22AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

I don't agree with her point of view, but I can understand it. If it was me, i'd just go find a doctor that was willing to help me and not judge me (or my weight).

3:11PM PST on Nov 15, 2012

I work with a Physician's Assistant who refuses to see smokers - he says he doesn't like smoke. But then he smokes pot and cigarettes every weekend. THAT is being a hypocrite.

6:22AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

fat shaming doctors
and then one who refused to treat a wiccan. but that is ok because it's mean to make people go aginst their religious beliefs.

no religion has anything aginst being fat.

why don't people protest at overeaters annonomyus buildings holding signs that read "good for you, 'cause gluttony is a sin".

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