According to the Sun Sentinel in South Florida, 15 obstetrics-gynecology practices out of 105 that the newspaper polled make it a practice to turn away pregnant patients who exceed a predetermined weight limit.
As disturbing as this may sound, doing so is not illegal. Some doctors say that their main motivation is that their tables can’t handle obese patients, but considering the fact that some of those polled have said their starting weight limit is 200 pounds, that reasoning doesn’t hold much water.
When it comes down to it, the real reason for refusing obese patients is fear of legal action due to the potential medical complications associated with obesity. According to the Sun Sentinel, at least six doctors have said this is their reason for avoiding obese patients.
“People don’t realize the risk we’re taking by taking care of these patients,” said Dr. Albert Triana, a physician in South Miami, Florida. “There’s more risk of something going wrong and more risk of getting sued. Everything is more complicated with an obese patient in GYN surgeries and in [pregnancies].”
If doctors’ fears are warranted, we most definitely need to consider serious tort reform. When doctors have to turn away patients, something must be done. Otherwise, are women going to be giving birth on their own like this is a Third World country?
Medical ethicists are concerned that this violates the very nature of the medical profession.
“If I had that policy, I wouldn’t have a practice. I’d lose half my patients,” said Dr. Maureen Whelihan, a West Palm Beach OB-GYN. “We never turn down anyone. We would see them, and if we had to, we would refer them to a specialist.”
Sometimes it is necessary for doctors to refer an obese patient to a specialist, one reason being that their ultrasound machines do not give quality images with pregnant obese women.
The political argument aside, no one can dispute that this raises awareness of the serious dangers of obesity, particularly for pregnant women.
Dangers of Obesity and Pregnancy Not Restricted to Mothers
Most of the dangers associated with obesity are very well documented. So it’s one thing to know the risks and take them with your own health, but when you are carrying a child and you are obese you are bringing those risks on someone else.
- Studies have shown that expecting mothers who are obese run the risk of giving birth to babies with birth defects.
- Babies born to obese women are three times likely to die in the first month of their life. Still birth babies are also more prevalent with obese women.
- Some of these birth defects can lead to heart, urinary tract and kidney problems.
- Obesity has been linked to a higher prevalence of neural tube defects, an opening in the spinal cord or brain.
(via: L.A. Times)