According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. And in addition to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, there now seems to be another health risk—denial of medical treatment.
Shrewsbury, MA resident Ida Davidson says she was turned away from a new primary care physician, WCVB-TV reports. The reason? Davidson weighed over 200 pounds, and the doctor, Dr. Helen M. Carter, had decided in the spring of 2012 to stop admitting obese patients who put her staff at risk.
In an interview with WCVB-TV, Dr. Carter explained, "After three consecutive injuries (with other patients) trying to care for people over 250 pounds, my office is unable to accommodate a certain weight and we put a limit on it."
And Carter is completely within her professional rights to do so. Under Opinion 9.12 of the AMA Code of Medical Ethics, both physicians and patients are free to decline a relationship. "A physician may decline to undertake the care of a patient whose medical condition is not within the physician's current competence," the code says.
While the AMA says doctors cannot turn away patients due to "race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination" weight is not specifically listed.
But with a growing movement fighting to legitimize weight-discrimination, perhaps the Code of Medical Ethics will undergo future changes in policy.
But for now, let's face it—with 35.7% of Americans clinically obese, it would be really bad business to turn them all away.