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Did your doctor’s anti-fat bias impact the care you received?

It isn’t easy to be an overweight adult. People feel like they have the right to make comments on your appearance or to make fun of you when you go to the gym. Attractiveness bias can affect your career, meaning that you don’t receive the same opportunities as some of your co-workers do because of your size.

That bias can even affect the health care that you receive. Although roughly two-thirds of adults are overweight, many physicians still haven’t adjusted to the growing waistlines of their patients. How does a doctor’s negative perception of overweight adults affect the health care that they provide to patients? 

Doctors will blame almost anything on a patient’s weight

You may be overweight, but you also have maintained that weight for years and are relatively physically active. You walk your dog every day after dinner with your spouse, but recently you noticed an unusual tightness in your chest or pain in your legs when you walk.

You report these issues to your doctor during your annual physical because you know they are not normal. Your doctor tells you to lose some weight. They may even set a specific goal, asking you to lose either a specific number of pounds or a percentage of your total body weight.

If you don’t lose the weight, they may not listen to your complaints until they progress into something even worse. Even if you do lose the weight and come back complaining of the same symptoms, the delay required by that weight loss might mean that your health declines even more in the interim.

When a doctor assumes that your weight is the underlying cause of your symptoms, they will fail to take other necessary diagnostic stops. The results of such a glaring medical oversight might be that your cancer spreads to another part of your body or that an issue with one of your joints will no longer respond to steroids and physical therapy but will instead require surgery.

Diagnostic failures are a serious form of medical malpractice

Doctors need to carefully think about what might cause a patient’s symptoms. Jumping to conclusions will do far more harm than good, but it is a frequent practice among doctors treating overweight and obese patients.

If your doctor ignored your self-reported symptoms or diagnosed you as being overweight when you had a serious health condition, their actions might constitute medical malpractice. Filing a medical malpractice claim could help you hold that physician accountable and seek compensation for your lost wages and other expenses caused by their improper and biased diagnostic practices.