Should Doctors Institute Weight Limits for Patients?

Dr. Helen Carter is no longer accepting patients who weigh over 200 pounds or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. What do you think about her new rule?


Should doctors be able to institute weight limits for patients as a way of avoiding injuries, or is this discrimination against people who may need help?

The question stems from Dr. Helen Carter, a Worcester-based doctor is no longer accepting new patients who are obese, according to WBUR—specifically, patients who weigh over 200 pounds or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30.

Carter told WBUR that her new policy is "self-preservation," instituted because another doctor in her practice had been seriously injured pulling out the exam table foot rest for a patient who weighed 280 pounds.

The policy isn't discriminatory, Carter told WBUR, because patients have access to other doctors in the area, including some facilities that cater to patients who need to tackle weight loss. She is also not dismissing any current patients who don't meet her standards, saying that the policy "give them a goal ... the problem with obesity is it has become socially acceptable." 

Read the full report at WBUR and tell us: Do you think it's fair for Carter to institute such a policy at her private practice for safety reasons? Or does it discriminate against people who need help from a doctor? Tell us your reaction in the comments below.

Think Twice September 10, 2012 at 01:12 PM
It may not be illegal, but it sure is immoral. And I agree with Kendra - where did the 200 lb. magical cutoff number come from, when that can be a fit and trim weight for many healthy people? I was over 200 lbs when I was in the best shape of my life with a great BMI. And often people need a doctor most when they have a physical issue that prevents them from exercising -- I had an injury that kept me from putting weight on my foot for 8 months, and my weight rose while I couldn't exercise. Yet I needed medical care even more to treat the injury, before I could return to even moderate excercise and activity. Is this doctor going to change the rules for how much weight her peers can lift before they're permitted to be a doctor in the practice? Her colleague was injured by pulling out an exam table foot rest... that doesn't seem like an issue with the patient's weight or health, it sounds more like a doctor that isn't healthy and fit... so maybe doctors that can't pass a physical endurance test shouldn't be allowed in her practice (that type of unfounded generalization should resonate well with Dr. Carter).
Barbara Evangelista September 10, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Her new rule is discriminatory and offensive. As a former morbidly obese persion, I can attest that finding a good, caring doctor is already very difficult for obese people. Many doctors are fat-phobic and simply don't care to work with obese patients, who really need their help. I have personal experience with a Lowell-based OB-GYN who my friends raved about but who provided me with terrible, almost malpractice-level, care. She ignored the issues I was having and didn't want to deal with the extra care I needed; I ended up getting extremely ill and had a 6-week premature infant due to her neglect. Most obese people are used to being ignored or dismissed, and it can be hard to demand the same level of care that regular-sized people get. Now that I'm a normal weight, life is so much easier; I'm no longer treated like a pariah at every business I go to. Dr. Carter should be ashamed of herself; I hope her patients let her know that her new policy is unacceptable. Unfortunately, they probably won't care.
Citizen K September 10, 2012 at 09:28 PM
First do no harm.
Amber November 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
She's free to treat/dismiss who she likes, but what a stupid marker to choose. BMI is an archaic measurement and I can't imagine a doctor failing to try to help her patients become healthier. What next? Refuse to treat old people because they require more care? Maybe this has the unintended side benefit of preventing patients from seeing enabling or downright bad physicians. Hey, I have a good one! Maybe Pediatrics West can screen out the hypochondriac parents and refuse to see/treat their kids! I have a short list of "frequent fliers" they could start with...
bob January 07, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Wait until the socialist health care starts in this country. If doctors or the insurance companies don't think it's cost effective or you require to much care or time. Guess what, you don't get any help!


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