Healthcare News & Insights

More OB/GYNs refusing to see heavier patients

If you’re overweight be warned: There’s a good chance your first-choice OB/GYN will refuse to see you.

That’s according to a new survey done by the Sun Sentinel. The newspaper polled 105 southern Florida obstetrics/gynecology practices and found that 15 said they refuse to see patients who don’t meet certain weight cut-offs. The criteria most used was either a weight of 200 pounds or being classified as obese.

It’s not unheard of for overweight pregnant women to be referred to specialists, but more doctors are now refusing to see any overweight women — whether or not they are pregnant or planning to conceive.

The reasons given centered on two main points: Some practices said their exam tables and other equipment couldn’t safely accommodate larger patients. Others said they were afraid of increased liability since obese patients are more likely to have complications.

It’s legal for doctors to refuse a patient for any reason — even simple personality conflicts — as long as the reason isn’t discriminatory. But the AMA, among other critics, says the practice of refusing to see obese patients goes against the “spirit” of the medical profession.

Ethics aside, as the population in general gets heavier and less fit, excluding obese patients could make it harder for practices to stay in business.

What’s your take: Should doctors be able to refuse obese patients? Would you go to one who does? Sound off in the comments.

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  1. It may seem harsh, but something like this may be what is needed to start getting the message out. Obesity is a national epidemic. It leads to a laundry list of preventable disease. And based on that fact alone, obesity is contributing significantly to our nation’s healthcare crisis. Smokers have been ‘discriminated’ against, with positive health effects nation-wide. Perhaps it is time this ‘discrimination’ started with the obese, leading to the same healthier ends.

  2. If their refusal to treat obese women is for safety reasons and as long as the physician is putting the patients’ interests first, then I’m all for it. However, if OB/GYNs are refusing to treat them simply because they have some personal issue with obese women and refuse to treat them based on these prejudices, then they should be stripped of their license as this goes against the core values of what being a doctor actually means.

  3. @Tony,
    Unfortunately, it should not be a tactic used by physicians to refuse to treat these patients due to personal biases to get a message across (they should do this through educating their patients and not discriminating against them). Pregnancies out of wedlock are a national crisis too, and at such young ages these immature people are bringing lives into this world is unhealthy as well, but do you see physicians refusing to treat patients based on this.

    On another note, when these physicians entered into the OB/GYN specialty they should have taken under consideration that they, according to the spirit of medicine, should treat the rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy, thin and “thick” without respect to any of this.

  4. heavybutnotobese says:

    In case nobody has read the weight guidelines, at 200 lbs a person who is in great health can still be classified as obese. I a larger person but not obese, I find it very disturbing that we can allow this to happen. I for one am sick of people saying that being heavy is a choice. You try being bigger person and see if it really is always a choice or not. Where you are obese or not you should not be allowed to be turned down for medical care. Maybe that is more of the issue then weight; how and why doctors are allowed to decide who deserves medical care.

  5. PR Expert says:

    Denying reproductive healthcare to larger women because they are larger is ludicrous. Most women need to have an annual checkup and refusing this creates the very real possibility of larger women just going without until their gynecological issues are much more complex and expensive. Then we all get to pay for it.

    Humiliating people and making them feel bad about themselves is NOT a weight loss technique – and is absolutely irresponsible if practiced by medical professionals. You can’t bully someone into eating less. If anything, it complicates the problem.

    When did it become acceptable in America to single out fat people as being OK to single out? It’s no different than any other type of discrimination. And it’s wrong. You cannot tell from looking at someone if they eat too much, have a medical issue that pumps up their weight, or are taking a medication that causes weight gain. It’s on the same level of ignorance as civilians who “police” handicapped parking spaces and give dirty looks to people who don’t “look” handicapped. You can’t tell from looking!!!

    The article didn’t mention any larger men being turned away from proctologists. Or doctors in any other field turning patients away in order to protect their examining tables.

    Prejudice is prejudice. I can’t believe anyone could condone this!