Some ob-gyn doctors in Florida are refusing to accept overweight women as patients, and some say they have set weight cut-offs for new patients.
The Sun Sentinel polled 105 obstetrics-gynecology practices in South Florida, and 15 of those said they had weight cut-offs for new patients starting at 200 pounds, or based on measures of obesity.
They said that their equipment is unable to handle people over a certain weight, and some admitted they were attempting to avoid obese patients because of their high risk of complications.
"People don't realize the risk we're taking by taking care of these patients," Dr. Albert Triana, whose practice in South Miami does not accept obese women, told the Sun Sentinel. "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]."
The office manager at another practice which declines those who are obese justified the decision by saying it is not a high-risk practice and the doctors there are not experts in obesity.
Doctors in South Florida have been often complained about the high numbers of lawsuits following difficult births, as well as the high rates for medical malpractice insurance.
Dr. Kenneth Konsker told CBS that such a policy would eliminate about 25 per cent of his obstetrical patients. He stated that, while there are more risks with overweight patients, part of being a doctor is dealing with risk, and that everyone should have the opportunity to have a healthy baby, no matter their weight.
Dr. Maureen Whelihan, a West Palm Beach ob-gyn, said the policy would likely result in her losing about half of her patients.
"We never turn down anyone," she told the Sun Sentinel. "We would see them, and if we had to, we would refer them to a specialist."
Doctors are allowed to drop patients if they feel they do not have the medical skills to treat them adequately, but Dr. Robert Yelverton, a board member of the Florida Obstetric and Gynecologic Society, said such decisions are usually made following an individual assessment. He said he does not think it is fair to turn someone away simply because of their weight, and he does not know where those who are overweight would go if all practices had a similar policy.
Mother Jones reported that "rising obesity rates have been blamed for contributing to the US's rising maternal mortality rate. Part of this could be because obese women are more likely to have a Caesarian section, which carries with it all the risks that would accompany another major operation such as infection and hemorrhage."
C-sections are often performed to avoid potential damage to the baby during a vaginal birth, and a lawsuit for that damage.