I went to a new gynecologist today and had a dreadful experience. The (female) doctor was rude, cold, and openly disapproving and judgmental of my fatness. Her disapproval and conduct was not a simply matter of professional concern, she acted in accordance to the fat bias ingrained in her socially as well. ‘Bitchy’ does not adequately cover how this doctor behaved and she made no real secret that it was because of my size. Her tone with me was venom-filled– literally as if I had run over her dog or murdered a child. This experience was a useful reminder that fat stigma is real and it is damaging.
I just sent her the following email:
Dear Dr. Roberts,
I am writing to express my disappointment with the quality of care you showed me today. I left your office in tears after feeling hurried and unimportant through our appointment. Perhaps your bedside manner is abrupt with all of your patients, but my impression was that I was being treated especially gruffly because of my weight. I appreciate that you spoke candidly about my obesity as a medical concern, but your tone and flippant attribution of symptoms as directly and singularly related to my fatness felt off-hand and dismissive.
I went into your office today as part of my efforts to better my health and overcome a 24-year fear of doctors that stems from a brain disease I had when I was seven. I expressed this journey to you but I feel that you did not hear it, or maybe did not believe me. Instead of joining me in a dialog about my body and its needs in order to plan a path to health, you recommended weight loss surgery and then pushed the point with the anecdotal example of your brother. Weight loss surgery is the fast way to a result that I am interested in, but not through those means.
A couple of months ago the LA Times wrote an interesting article on fat bias in the medical field and its negative effects on overweight patients. The jist is that when doctors forcibly express their concerns about obesity ‘for the patient’s own good’ they increase the likelihood that person will avoid treatment in the future. Some Fat Studies scholars have even suggested that this aversion to routine checkups contributes to the increased rate of illness associated with obesity. You can see the article here: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/13/health/la-he-the-md-weight-bias-20101213
I will not be returning to your office for further treatment. In the event that my pap smear results require follow up I will do so with another doctor.