If you're an overweight woman in South Florida, you may have trouble getting your annual pap smear — gynecologists in the region are starting to turn away women solely because of their weight.
The Florida Sun Sentinel polled 105 ob-gyn practices and found that 15 of them had weight limits for their patients, even if they were healthy. The stated reason: overweight women are just too hard to take care of. Some doctors said their equipment couldn't handle obese patients — others said they were concerned about the risk of weight-related complications and the potential need to refer women out to specialists. Dr. Albert Triana, whose practice turns down obese patients, says, "People don't realize the risk we're taking by taking care of these patients. There's more risk of something going wrong and more risk of getting sued."
According to the Sun Sentinel, refusing to treat pregnant obese women is already common — it's just turning away healthy, non-pregnant overweight patients that's new. Neither is illegal — as long as they don't discriminate based on "race, gender, sexual orientation or infectious diseases," doctors can turn away anyone they want. Kerry Kuhn, treasurer of medical services company VitalMD, says somewhat ominously, "Doctors know who they want to treat."
Obviously doctors shouldn't accept patients they can't adequately treat. But several South Florida practices seem to bar obese women simply under the theory that they might have trouble treating them in future. Turning someone away because their treatment could get tough sounds like a form of discrimination, even if it's one that's not currently prohibited by law — and it could also cause serious problems for obese women if they're unable to get the gynecological care they need. It's also worth noting that being overweight doesn't necessarily mean you're sick — but it might if doctors keep refusing to treat women because of their weight.
Some Ob-Gyns In South Florida Turn Away Overweight Women [Florida Sun Sentinel, via Palm Beach Post]
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