The commentary which was published in Denver’s Nursing Star Times on March 10, 2003 was not only politically incorrect ( as the writer pointed out), it did not give a fair over-view of the substandard medical care which the morbidly obese population tends to receive…partly as a result of medical professionals like the writer who stand in judgment of them. I found the usage of the term "fat" to describe obese persons as offensive and unprofessional, but that was only the beginning of what I found in the commentary to be offensive.
In addition to the content of the commentary, I found the cartoon distasteful and did not see the humor.
Did the writer ever stop to consider that perhaps the reason that the 58 year old patient spoken of did not find her breast lump earlier is because obese patients may tend to avoid seeking medical care out of the fear of being subjected to humiliation and of being chastised by Health Care Professional’s? The writer suggested that she did not find her lump earlier because she weighed 300 pounds. Did the writer think that the obese patient doesn’t see the stares, hear the whisper’s, or feel the prejudices that they are faced with on a daily basis? Did the writer think that they are immune to the emotional wounds that accompany the above? The excess body weight may insulate them physically, but contrary to popular belief it does not insulate them emotionally.
The writer speaks of instruments and sponges being left inside of patients during surgical procedures and goes so far as to include a quotation that says that this happens more often to "fat patients" simply because there is more room inside them to lose more equipment. Give me a break! It happens because protocol is not followed by the Medical Staff and accurate instrument and sponge counts are not performed prior to closing the incision. How dare this serious type of staff error be blamed on a patient’s weight?
While spending time whining about how difficult it is to take care of the obese patient, no real solutions were offered. The explaination that "people really can be genetically disposed to being overweight but there really can be no overweight people in the prison camps". What is that supposed to mean? Surely you are not suggesting starvation as a viable means to get patients to a body weight that is more comfortable in providing care to them.
As Health Care Professionals it is time that we embrace the morbidly obese and stop treating them as if they possess some sort of character defect which results in excess body weight. If we would do this, and do it well, perhaps more of those who suffer with obesity would seek medical treatment sooner and the mortality rate would improve.
Did the writer ever once stop to consider that it could be herself, or a loved one, that failed to seek medical care because of the fear of encountering a prejudiced health care worker? I have been there and done that. I have previously lived life as a morbidly obese person and only as a result of expensive and extremely invasive medical intervention have I been able to shed the beast. Yes, it is a beast. Not a lack of morals, not a lack of character, not a lack of will-power.
I challenge the writer and others to think about walking in someone else’s shoes…ponder The Golden Rule…and then the next time you want to make a comment about how hard it is to take care of a obese person, think twice – maybe three times about it. Perhaps the writer could muster up some compassion while thinking about it.
Gina Coates, R.N., CHPN