Bias Against the Obese Patient

Bias Against the Obese Patient

 Lawyers, like a medical negligence lawyers from Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co, L.P.A., have learned many tricks of the trade as they gain more experience. Many realize that victims of medical negligence face an uphill climb no matter how clear-cut the medical errors and mistakes seem. Not only do they face a well-armed adversary in the wealthy hospital systems and insurance companies that defend these claims, along with their legions of defense attorneys, but less obviously, they face implicit jury bias.

 Medical malpractice cases happen to sick patients. Patients seek medical attention for the very reason that they are suffering from some medical condition or illness. The defense team will use this against the injured party, arguing that co-morbidities and risk factors caused the patient’s bad outcome, not the doctors negligence or nurses errors. These comorbidities and risk factors are all the more lethal to a cause of action when they occur as a result of poor health habits. For example, jurors are particularly harsh when it comes to injured patients who smoke or are obese.

 Risks for Medical Negligence Litigation

Obesity carries multiple risks for medical negligence litigation. First, many people have a general distaste for overweight individuals, finding them to be stereotypically lazy or self-indulgent. Second, obesity carries with it many self-imposed medical conditions, such as hypertension and obesity, that complicate the patient’s care and worsen their chance of a safe outcome. Finally, physicians, too, hold deep subconscious bias against their obese patients.

 Obesity in the United States 

Obesity is epidemic in the United States. 1 in 3 Americans has excess body fat or body mass index BMI, meaning they are, by definition, obese. Surprisingly, many people with an excessive BMI do not consider themselves to be obese. Looking back at old movies or television programs shows how public perception has shifted. Old actors, like Jackie Gleason, seem to be rotund compared to average Americans in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, looking back, one can see that those body types have become average in modern times.

 The Obesity Bias

Two recent examples show how bias affects the obese patient in the health care setting. As data is compiled regarding risk factors for bad outcomes from the coronavirus, obesity rose to the top of the list as a major risk factor. However, one physician pointed out that the data is skewed by obesity bias. Lighter weight patients, it appears, were receiving earlier and better treatment, resulting in improved outcomes. Poor care of obese patients resulting in poorer outcomes for obese patients, it seems.

 Bariatric Surgery

Another example arises in the context of bariatric surgery. Skilled lawyers, like medical negligence lawyers from Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co, L.P.A., have reviewed several cases involving post-bariatric surgery complications. Typically, a patient develops dumping syndrome which results in profuse, persistent vomiting. When an obese patient has their stomach stapled, they do not process nutrients as efficiently as they did before the surgery. Therefore, a persistent case of dumping syndrome can result in profound vitamin deficiencies. We take vitamin intake for granted in our country due to our access to rich food supplies. However, the obese, post-bariatric surgery patient can develop severe, rare vitamin deficiencies rapidly, such as beriberi syndrome. These vitamin deficiencies can lead to severe complications, such as encephalopathy, rhabdomyolysis, and death. These obese patients can be written off by caregivers who fail to take into account that an obese patient can actually be malnourished. Dumping syndrome may be attributed to a psychiatric disorder because, according to the physician’s biased view, overeating is an emotional disorder. Despite the fact that bariatric patients undergo rigorous pre-surgery psychological testing, dumping syndrome and the resulting life-threatening vitamin deficiencies are often ignored.

 Contact an Attorney 

A skilled medical malpractice trial attorney will recognize that obesity may have both contributed to a medical error and will also be used as a defense against a medical malpractice claim. The bias against obese patients who have suffered serious personal injuries at the hands of a negligent doctor must be addressed at trial in order to give the injury victim any chance of prevailing. Most medical malpractice lawyers are available for free consultation. Time limits may apply, so you should contact an experienced medical liability lawyer soon after suffering injury or the wrongful death of a loved one.