New Jersey patients who are overweight may experience harmful “fat shaming” from their doctors according to a study presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. The study was conducted by researchers at Connecticut College and published on Aug. 3.
The researchers reviewed 46 studies about doctors and their biases regarding obesity. They also examined self-reports of fat-shaming and compared that to patients’ health outcomes. The report said that the decreased trust in the doctor that resulted from the fat shaming resulted in poorer health outcomes. Patients might also delay going to the doctor or avoid it altogether.
One of the researchers said fat-shaming was a form of medical malpractice. In some cases, patients were misdiagnosed because doctors assumed their symptoms were related to obesity. CAT scans, physical therapy or blood work might be ordered for patients of average weight while patients who were overweight were simply told to lose weight. The researchers called on better training for medical providers to ensure that all patients were treated with respect.
When a patient is misdiagnosed, it can cause serious harm. The patient may never receive appropriate treatment, and the medical negligence can severely affect qualify of life or even be fatal. If a diagnosis is delayed because a doctor focused on the patient’s weight instead, this could be a case of medical malpractice, and the doctor could be financially liable. An attorney representing a patient will have to demonstrate that the harm suffered by the patient was the result of the doctor’s failure to exhibit the requisite standard of care.