A Brave Author

I remember reading an article a long time ago about advice that an experienced journalist gave a new writer in the newsroom. He said to “never write anything bad about cats” because the paper would be bombarded with letters from irate cat owners in response.

I thought of this as I read a NYT article titled “Pregnant, Obese and in Danger” by Claire Putnam (a doctor at a Kaiser Permanente hospital). From the article:

One recent night on my delivery shift, 8 out of 10 of my laboring patients were too heavy, with 2 weighing over 300 pounds… obese pregnant patients are more likely to have elevated blood pressure, gestational diabetes and babies with birth complications. The are more likely to need cesareans. And the are more likely to have serious complications from the surgery, such as infections, hernias, or life-threatening bleeding.

An extended family member of mine was a medical EMT and he mentioned how many of his co-workers were hurt while moving and assisting the obese and morbidly obese. This doctor agrees.

In the last year alone, three of the doctors I work with have been significantly injured while treating severely obese women. One even dislocated his shoulder while performing a cesarean on a 400-pound patient.

This author is incredibly brave because I can only imagine the vitriol that this sort of analysis will generate in the comments and on social media. They will say that you are making fun of women for whom their weight is out of their control! You are contributing to negative body image in the media!

The story of the negative impact on health care workers of the obese and the extra costs on society should be factually driven and discussed openly. In the same way that the addicts in Drugs, Inc pose huge challenges on the system through their lifestyle choices (which are universally panned, unlike the obese), these sorts of behaviors should be questioned as well.

Cross posted at LITGM

12 thoughts on “A Brave Author”

  1. She would be in worse trouble if she mentioned race or ethnic group but, like “youths” attacking tourists, everyone knows the answer.

  2. A couple of years ago I saw, in the waiting room of an endocrinology clinic, a monstrously fat man. Clearly his hormones were the root of his problem, poor sod. But what took my breath away was one of his ways of coping. He was elegantly dressed, in an immaculate, nineteen-thirties suit, with waistcoat and watch-chain. I didn’t cross the room to congratulate him on his sense of style but perhaps I should have done.

  3. At one time I did obesity surgery. Those were very motivated patients but many surgeons of doubtful skill were the early adopters of the surgical methods. It is a bit like Jehovah’s Witnesses who were preyed upon by bad surgeons who agreed to do surgery without using blood.

    Both groups now get better care but obesity is probably, at least partly, a consequence of the obsession about dietary fat and the shift to carbohydrates. Dr Atkins, the cardiologist who advocated a high protein, low carb diet in the 70s was savaged during his life and after he died from a fall on an icy New York street. The vitriol was amazing. When I wrote my history of medicine in 1998, there was almost no research on this topic in Pub Med. It was still all about avoiding fat in the diet and pushing pasta and carbs.

    I think some of it was a vegetarian thing, which is the same as saying a leftist thing. For some reason, leftism and vegetarianism are related. Maybe they think only the rich can afford meat.

    Some, of course, is cultural such as the Mexican diet and the Italian diet.

  4. One even dislocated his shoulder while performing a cesarean on a 400-pound patient

    Do I want to know how?

  5. It is a big problem in health care. A friend who is a gym rat, quite fit, and a highly experienced operating room nurse, has cut back on his shifts in the OR because of several work-related injuries caused by very obese patients. It’s only getting worse, and ACA designation of obesity as a protected condition means medical staff have little hope of gaining any relief, so careers such an my friend’s are coming to premature closes.

  6. The 600lb. man, a grim tale. Big city public hospital. Night shift. ICU, for a week or so. Nurses had to beg for help from staff to roll the guy. “I ain’t touchin’ him” He expires. Two weeks in the morgue, nobody would deal with it. I don’t know what finally became of the body, it disappeared. I’ll never forget it. Truly awful stuff.

  7. We had a 750 pound trauma case some years ago. It took two operating tables to hold him. He had mostly just a compound tibia fracture but in a patient like that, that can be a lethal injury.

    Many years ago, I had a woman who weighed about 450 pounds who was admitted with what we thought was a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. It turned out to be a ruptured colon from constipation. She died.

  8. When #2 son, who is a fireman/paramedic, was working in Blue Island, IL, they had a lot of calls from obese poor folks who lived there. They had a reinforced tarp with handles sewn on the edges they called the “whale tarp”. He said there was nothing like 6-8 firemen trying to get a 500 lb woman who had not bathed in weeks down rickety wooden stairs outside the tenements.

  9. The Japanese build robots for this sort of thing. If we weren’t so financially irresponsible, we’d be deploying them widely in healthcare.

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