"...I had one doctor who blamed me and told me I got PCOS from being fat."
The blog First Do No Harm contains story after story of people, mostly women, who have been treated so badly by doctors because of their fat that, in many cases, it took years for them to get a real diagnosis and treatment.
A recent survey of doctors showed that they had very negative attitudes and feelings toward their fat patients:
When researchers asked more than 400 physicians to name patient characteristics that provoked feelings of discomfort, reluctance, or dislike, one-third of the subjects mentioned obesity, making it the fourth most-common condition named after drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness. The subjects also linked obesity to negative qualities such as poor hygiene, hostility, dishonesty, and noncompliance with prescribed treatment. Another survey of family physicians found that two-thirds said their obese patients lacked self-control and nearly 40 percent characterized their obese patients as lazy. Nurses expressed similar attitudes—nearly half reported that they were uncomfortable caring for obese patients and 31 percent told surveyors they would prefer not to care for obese patients at all.
Puhl and Brownell found documented evidence that health professionals' deeply held negative stereotypes adversely affected their clinical judgment, diagnosis, and the quality of care delivered to obese patients. A survey of more than 1,200 physicians revealed that most were ambivalent about caring for overweight and obese patients, and did not intervene and treat them with the same determination they displayed toward normal-weight patients.
I'm not making this stuff up. These are the things that medical professionals actually admitted to thinking and feeling about fat patients. And I have this to say:
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE FOR THIS.
I read the doctor blogs. I see doctors complaining that their patients get information off the internet and come in with a request to be tested for this or that. You know what, guys? Look at the above quoted paragraphs and tell me that we don't need to advocate long and hard to receive proper care when the only diagnosis many doctors can come up with is "fat", and the only treatment is "eat less and exercise", when someone is suffering from excruciating bursitis, appendicitis, or Cushing's disease.
It is malpractice to refuse to treat a person's medical condition(s) because you don't like how fat they are. It is arrogant to think that they aren't capable of seeing through your bullshit eventually, and figuring out that you caused them harm by withholding treatment. It's doubly arrogant to assume that, because you have a medical degree, that you know more about everything than a "common person". The less informed will not realize just how badly you're harming them, while the well-informed are not going to stand for this. If you are a doctor, and you dismiss fat patients as not worth your time, then you do not deserve the title. It's childish and cruel, and you fucking know it.
Also, this whole thing about doctors being gods who know all? Look, I worked in aquarium stores for over 10 years. Aquariums, being a luxury item, are a frequent purchase for doctors, and, that being the case, I had a number of them as regular customers. I have to say, for people whose job is knowing the functions of the human body, most of these guys had such a limited grasp of the very basic biology required to keep an aquarium that it really scared me to think that they were actually charged with the task of keeping humans alive and healthy. If I can explain how to keep fish to a high school dropout, and have that person be very successful at it, then it's damned frightening for someone with a medical degree to tell me repeatedly that they don't "get it" when I explain for the 10th time why their methods are killing their fish.
I do understand that many of today's physicians are overbooked, undereducated, and not well-compensated. I'm sorry for that, and I hope that something happens to change that situation. My last doctor wasn't too bad, really, but because he had all of three minutes to listen, talk, diagnose, and write prescriptions, things got overlooked--one of which ended in surgery that may have been prevented with earlier intervention. He was nice, and he was actually pretty realistic about my being fat. I happened to meet someone else, though, who charmed me into his practice by being a fantastic aquarium store customer, and chatting with me about how he treats fibromyalgia patients (he also happens to be partnered in his practice with THE fibro doc in this area, so he has a great resource if he needs to find anything out).
I'm very lucky; my doctor is down-to-earth, caring, and actually gives a damn about his patients, no matter what they look like. He is also an expert aquarist--and, when I gave him cat advice, we were able to talk about pheromones and their different functions, and he was able to talk about it intelligently*. I suppose he has a bit of an edge, though; he was a high school biology teacher for a while before he decided to become a physician and go to medical school. He really knows his stuff with treating fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, depression, and anxiety. He was the first one willing to do the full thyroid panel instead of just telling me that my TSH was "fine"--and, when I told him the TSH numbers I'd had with a previous physician, they apparently weren't fine.
This has rambled a bit, and I'm sorry for that, but my experiences have been difficult. Prior to both of the above mentioned doctors, I had some pretty stupid experiences, including one doctor who told me that my asthma was just anxiety, and that I needed to "learn to relax". Well, asthma is something that can be empirically measured on equipment. Did he do that? No. Have I had it done since then? Yes, and I don't think I need to tell you that the results were that I have moderate asthma. Anxiety is not something that can be measured, but it's also not controlled by "learning to relax". I apparently wasn't worth that guy's time, though, so I was dismissed and ignored. That's unacceptable. It's irresponsible. And it has to change.
* About doc and the cat advice: He was having trouble with his cat engaging in inappropriate urination. Since the cat tested negative for UTI or crystals, he thought it might be some anxiety due to family stresses in the house. The vet recommended Feliway, and Dr. D asked me why a pheromone would change inappropriate urination. I explained that it was a synthetic version of their cheek pheromones, which are calming to them. They're different from the pheromones used for marking territory or attracting mates. He was thrilled to have this explained, and I was thrilled that he was curious about the subject. He's pretty busy most of the time, and is really more into fish, so he isn't familiar with every cat product on the market. I've used Feliway in the past for a nervous kitty (she lives with my ex), and I use it in the foster room to help the scared kittens settle in.