When doctors are wrong.

drmistake

I recently watched this video–a TED talk–by Dr. Peter Attia. You may have seen it as it’s become quite a viral sensation over the last few weeks. But even if you have seen it, you might find it useful to watch again. So here it is:

While I don’t agree with absolutely everything Dr. Attia has to say, I do think he brings up a few important points.  One issue is that some doctors, scientists, and other medical professionals are really starting to question the causal nature of the link between obesity and diabetes.  I think this is an important area that will require a lot more study.  And I think it is our job to continue to push for this continued study.

But one issue that I want to particularly want to highlight here is how hard it seems to be for doctors to admit they are wrong.  Dr. Attia is clearly deeply moved.  He feels a tremendous sense of remorse for how he treated that poor woman with diabetes.  Once he realized the level to which he had allowed stigma to affect his treatment of this woman he was devastated.

Many of us would be quick to state, well he should be.  He may have deeply hurt this woman.  He may not have given her the best medical care.  Many of us don’t go to the doctor because we are so afraid of being hurt just this way at the doctor’s office or the hospital.  Some of us have died because of this.

To which I would respond, “Yes, that’s true.”

But I think it’s also important to see what this video has to teach us about doctors and what it might be like for them to understand that they were wrong about something.  We look to doctors to fix everything.  We ask them to make us well and to bring us back from the brink of death.  It takes a certain amount of arrogance to hold a person’s beating heart in your hand and endeavor to fix it.  And I imagine there is a certain amount of pain when you have to tell somebody or tell their family that you can’t fix it.  You can’t make it all better.  You are not god.  And I’m not sure that the pain ever goes away.

Please understand.  I am not making excuses for doctors who bully and stigmatize fat people.  It is wrong, and it needs to stop.  Now.  That is why I am working so closely with the Size Diversity Task Force and the Association for Size Diversity And Health on the Resolved project.  We need to share our stories.  We need doctors and the public to understand that weight stigma is extremely damaging to fat people in medical settings and is sometimes even fatal.  There was a period of years in my life when I was quite sick and might have died based on the assumptions that doctors had made about me.  So I get it.  This must change.

But I think, if we want our work to be effective, if we want things to change, we need to be perceptive and understand what it means to help doctors understand that they are wrong about this.  We need to understand this–not so we can let them off the hook–not so we can let them down easy– so we can find the best path towards an actual solution, so we can understand why many doctors are so resistant, and so we can better understand why this is taking so long.

The issue of weight stigma in medicine is complex and nuanced.  But I do know one thing.  It will only change if a lot of us continue to work together to bring about change.  I would love to hear your thoughts about this issue.  And I would love to have your continued support to make the Resolved project a success!  Click here for more information about how you can participate.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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One thought on “When doctors are wrong.

  1. Lesleigh Owen

    What a beautiful, powerful, and compassionate post. I think it’s a fantastic point: we fatties, even those of us who have been treated like doggy doo-doo by many docs, might consider extending the same compassion to them that we hope from them.

    Reply

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