Bioethics Discussion Blog: American Medical Association: Obesity is a Disease but Not a Disability

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

American Medical Association: Obesity is a Disease but Not a Disability



The American Medical Association (AMA) finds that obesity is a disease but not a disability. In a resolution passed by the AMA on June 16 2009 and reported by various news services including ABC news The argument against disability was as follows
"If obesity is designated as a disability, physicians could be sued or reprimanded for discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act if a patient takes offense at the physician discussing obesity," the resolution states. "Therefore be it resolved that our American Medical Association not support the effort to make obesity a disability."

The Americans with Disability Act of 1990 was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush July 26 1990 and later amended with changes effective January 1 2009. The entire Act after the amended changes can be found at this link.

Read the Act and read why AMA considers obesity a disease that needs public education and attention and then return and write your opinion whether you think obesity is a disability to be included in the Act and what you think of the AMA’s rationale for stating obesity is NOT a disability. ..Maurice.



Graphic: Image in the public domain from Wikipedia. Painting by an Italian painter 17th century.

4 Comments:

At Wednesday, July 29, 2009 2:05:00 PM, Blogger Deane said...

Huh? Okay, the act is really long and I didn't read all of it. But how would a physician be sued for discussing obesity, if designated a disability? Does that mean that if I were legally blind, and my physician discussed my impaired vision she could be sued? What if she was my eye doctor? There must be more to it than that. Discussion, even if I find it offensive, isn't the same thing as discrimination. I have heard anecdotal stories of physicians dismissing patients because of ongoing smoking, obesity, etc. Perhaps that would become illegal.

Disability to me means some type of functional limitation. Some obese folks would probably meet this criteria, some not.

My gut tells me that something else is at work in the AMA debate. Physician are small business owners as well, perhaps they want to be able to terminate employees, or not make accomodations, based on obesity?

AG

 
At Wednesday, July 29, 2009 2:43:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

AG, good points! I would think one way for a doctor to get sued would be if the doctor performed a pre-employment physical for a company and wrote something about the patient's weight that was acted upon by the company in a discriminatory fashion. The physician could be easily be one of those who were sued. And since overweight/obesity is not uncommon there would be high probability of such a suit occurring. Another possibility for suit is if the patient was obese and the physician attempted to "lecture" the patient about eating habits after being told by the patient that he/she didn't want the doctor to speak about the subject.

It doesn't matter whether any of this goes to trial or if the doctor is found innocent, the financial and emotional burdens on the physician can be enormous. If obesity was not considered part of the ADA law, there might be less chance for physicians to be challenged with a suit.

Your last statement"Physician are small business owners as well, perhaps they want to be able to terminate employees, or not make accommodations, based on obesity?" is certainly a reasonable possiblity. ..Maurice.

 
At Thursday, August 20, 2009 9:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems nowadays that you can't discuss obesity without insulting someone. I've known many physicians
who don't bring up weight loss to
many of their patients in fear of
losing them as patients. Most I believe its pointless as the advice
goes in one ear and out the other.
High blood pressure and diabetes
rank high on the list for obesity,
so whats next? Physicians get sued
for not advising patients that losing weight is vital to their
health!

PT

 
At Sunday, November 01, 2009 7:11:00 AM, Blogger N said...

Top Reasons Why Doctors Don’t Discuss Weight With Their Patients

Afraid of hurting their feelings
Afraid of insulting their spouse’s cooking
Afraid of being considered a nut by the other doctors in the group
Afraid of contradicting every food commercial and ad in the nation
Afraid of hurting the fast food industry and restaurant industry’s profits
Afraid the food industry might retaliate w/ a pair of cement shoes
Afraid it’ll be bad for their business
Afraid of being sued
Afraid of being reprimanded by their supervisor and having to call the patient to apologize for being such an insensitive boob
Think it’s a societal problem best left up to government agencies
Afraid their patients and colleagues won’t like them
Don’t think it’ll make any difference
Find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the problem
Think we could all use a few extra pounds
Think it’s the Nutritionist’s problem
Think it’s a self-limited cycle that will work itself out in a few years
Afraid that any intervention may turn out to be counterproductive
Worried that they’ll stress out their patients and drive them to eat more
Worried their patients will take up smoking again
Afraid their patients will switch their PCP to a less concerned doctor
Don’t know any consistently effective way to get them to lose weight
Think it’s the patient’s problem, not theirs
Think that food preference is a highly personal matter best left up to the individual
Afraid of pushing their obese patients to exercise more
Find it highly effective to tell patients that their calories in are exceeding their calories out
Find a 15 min visit inadequate to address the weight issue while also having to manage the patient's Cholesterol, Hypertension, Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, Arthritis, Reflux, Fatty Liver, Gout, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Infertility, Coronary Artery Disease and Depression.
None of the above, my patients are all thin
-Obviously, some of these are meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Thanks, Dr. Bill.

 

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