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Hot Topic Tuesday: Too Heavy for Treatment?

Written on August 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm , by

Is this doc giving the right Rx?

We might need to step on our scales before setting up the next doctor’s visit. A Massachusetts primary care physician has implemented a policy of refusing patients who are over 200 pounds, citing concern for her employees. Dr.  Helen Carter of Shrewsbury, MA says that she decided to stop seeing overweight patients after her staff suffered injuries trying to accommodate people over 250 pounds. We didn’t think this was legal, but according to the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs, doctors have the freedom to determine what kind of patient-physician relationships to pursue, as this WCVB.com story points out. One of her former patients, Ida Davidson, who was turned away because of her weight, thinks this policy is just the doctor’s way of avoiding “too much work.”

Tell us: Whose side are you on? Do you think Dr. Carter is being fair or discriminatory?

  • Keplix

    Personally I wouldn’t want to see someone with an attitude like that.

  • Leslie

    Why decline treatment?  Introduce them to the way out of obesity.  This is the problem with our healthcare system, too eager to prescribe drugs, but not healthy guidance.  My opinion, this decision to refuse patients is wrong.    

  • http://www.facebook.com/nyydreamer Betty Kennedy

    as an RN I totally agree with Dr. Carter – my back has suffered as a result of lifting, moving, and pushing patients – have you ever tried to help a 300lb woman onto a bedpan?

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  • Buyerid2004

    Hmmm..maybe not fair.  People who aren’t “overweight” like some NFL or NBA players would be over 200lbs, but they’d also be banned despite not being “overweight.”  It just seems like a poor business decision to turn away business from folks who might need the most of it from a medical facility. But hey,  I am in business to make money, so what do I know?

  • Nkflett

    I think this doctor has every right to refuse service to people. It’s her practice. The health and wellbeing of her staff are in jeopardy, she has a responsibility to ensure the problem is resolved!

  • Lynn

    I understand the physician’s concern of her staff, but it seems to me there’s more concern of ability of patients to mobilize than the size of the patients.  Lifting, repositioning even a 100 lb patient can cause injuries.  As stated in a previous comment.  The weight limit may actually deter what would be otherwise healthy patients.  Someone who is 6’6 is more than likely going to weigh 200lb plus.  I can’t help but question how much concern she has for her patients regardless of their weight. 

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  • http://phcweightloss.com/ Donna

    Well, it must have been totally embarrassing for the patients.  I understand the Physcian’s. point of view but would it be a simple matter to get a scale that would weigh up to 450 lbs. & perhaps one table that is easier to get on?  With so many people overweight, it will be difficult to narrow a practice down to “less than 250lbs”.

    This is a sad commentary on the state of the American people when a Dr. won’t treat someone because of weight.  Could color be the next issue?  Lets not go back, America. 

    If the Dr. is truly not going to help overweight patients how does she plan on screening them when they call? Or is she going to ask weight on the phone?  Let me know how this turns out. 

    I work with overweight & obese clients all the time in our Wellness & Weight Loss Company.  I have a true love of helping these people lose weight.  I have personally lost 100 lbs and kept it off for years &had no surgery.  I didn’t choose to be overweight, it started when I was a child probably from having both parents working and addiction issues inside the family.

    How would the Dr. want to be treated if the tables were turned?

  • 2bbarnesbrown

    That’s the risk you took on being a health care provider. What if emergency room doctors and nurses like my aunt decided not save their life because they were over weight? Smh I gues…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1039704814 Dawn Breidenbach

    As 2bbarnesbrown said, that’s the risk you took when becoming a nurse.  I would hope you would publicly post your weight for the patients to see, maybe they wouldn’t want you as their nurse if you’re not up to the proper standards.  

  • Diane

    Sweetie that comes with the job…you signed up for that….Wow!!!!!


    Having first worked as an RN and suffering a permanent neck injury, secondary to a 270 lb woman, losing my job because I could no longer perform chest compressions in CPR, and not having workers compensation cover such loss or retraining, has given me insight as I start a new role as a nurse practitioner in how to deal with such potential clients. I remain aware of how easily and quickly an emergency situation created by the morbidly obese person can come about, and I personally, do not seek to be further damaged or fully disabled by a patient who has made a lifestyle ‘choice’, and seeks to impose their choice upon me and my person and well being.


    Actually, when one chooses to be an RN at some hospitals, the hospital from their profit, hired lift teams to assist with this issue. MOST hospitals prefer to keep as much profit with the upper echelons who don’t care if they damage one more nurse. 

    When you consider this country has a nursing shortage, you need to understand that this country has not failed to educate enough nurses, just that the smart ones leave the profession before they are disabled to a nursing home, albeit by the obese patients.


    The attitude may not be the doctors.  The reporting journalist failed to post what led up to this termination of a patient. I have met many morbidly obese patients who tell me they are not big enough. I am all for them being the size they need to be. I am not however, willing to damage my own person further by their excess weight. 

    Please note: OSHA states that you need one person for each 50 lbs of human weight to safely maneuver clients. So a 200 lb person would require four medical assistants or other office personnel trained in patient lifting in order to fully take care of this client. What is the cost to the single practitioner’s practice, of a small office, of keeping four additional individuals around to assist the obese client and maintain everyones safety? At $7.25 per hour x 4 persons (6 if she is one pound over 200) is $29 per hour ($43.50 if 6 are required), when the average client visit is compensated at $45. Note the taxes and workers compensation policy has not been deducted either. If she is now a few pounds over 200, then the profit in seeing this one client is $2.50, which of course has to be split between the doctor and her office staff and her liability insurances.

    Personally, the doctors choice might actually become a catalyst to reduce her liability premiums for this scenario alone.

    Wasn’t there a business person who posted who didn’t understand why the doctor was willing to give away potential income in this case? Perhaps because the associated expenses are too high, and she chose to put her own safety, her employees safety, and the clients safety first in recognizing it was unsafe to handle further ‘super size’ clients. 

  • Amberhagy24

    This is just hateful. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, and yes I am currently working on bettering myself, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a doctor’s office to try to find out what’s going on with me, just to be told that I’m lazy and fat and that I eat too much. Here’s the problem with that though. I have a thyroid problem and major clinical depression which I am on medication for. The times I’ve asked a doctor’s opinion on weight gains and such have been stressful for me. I’m an active person. I walk over 2 hours every day, play with my two dogs, and eat far less than even my skinny friends. Being told by a doctor that I could be as skinny as a movie star if I would just “move around more and eat less,” kinda makes a person mad, and being completely turned away from seeing a doctor because of your weight is even worse.