Consumer Health Features
Bariatric doctor: 'We need to stop discriminating against obese people'
By Carson D. Liu, M.D., F.A.C.S. Jul 11, 2012, 5:39 GMT
Santa Monica surgeon Dr. Carson Liu prepares a patient for weight-loss… (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles…)
Obesity is the most discriminated disease! Patients are being blamed and mistreated for a legitimate medical illness. At present, most patients who seek surgical intervention for their obesity have serious exclusions in their insurance policy that prohibits them from receiving care in a timely manner.
I see many patients who, because they want to have a surgery to treat their obesity, have had their PPO insurance plan downgraded to an HMO status while still paying at PPO rates.
Insurance companies are blaming the patients for being obese. The insurance companies don't treat lung cancer patients, the ones that have smoked, the way they discriminate against obese patients.
As a doctor, I am surprised that obese people have not complained more. Their primary doctors blame them for being obese, scold them, but never give them the tools to lose weight. A lot of patients are never taught how to diet and exercise. Primary doctors must spend more time educating their obese patients about diet and exercise.
By the time the patients come to see me, their confidence in themselves are at an all time low. They have failed dieting on their own, failed commercial weight loss programs, and have been lectured by their primary care doctor about losing weight.
Obese people are frustrated because they are trying, but no one believes they are trying, including their own doctor. When they seek surgical intervention, their primary care doctor, their own family members and their friends are usually against the idea.
Can you imagine if we treated our lung cancer patients this way? 'Well Mr X, since you have smoked yourself to lung cancer, we are downgrading your access to treatment. It's all your fault, Mr. X, and you should not waste our insurance dollars on a disease you caused.'
Friends, family and doctors then tell Mr. X to take care of it, but tell him that chemotherapy and surgery don't work and it's dangerous. This is how obese patients are treated!
Whether or not we have a national healthcare plan, we need to change the attitudes of everyone about obesity. The blame game needs to stop and access to healthcare should not be restricted.
We all need to stop discriminating against obese people.
Dr. Carson Liu is a frequent contributor to Monsters and Critics, and is one of the most respected bariatric surgeons in the country. He started the minimally invasive bariatric program at UCLA before opening his own practice in Santa Monica, CA. He's on Allergan's board for selection of doctors for the Lap-Band, and is a research doctor as well. WEBSITE