‘Almost Like Malpractice’: To Shed Bias, Doctors Get Schooled to Look Beyond Obesity

by | May 24, 2022 | Health

When Melissa Boughton complained to her OB-GYN about dull pelvic pain, the doctor responded by asking about her diet and exercise habits.

The question seemed irrelevant, considering the type of pain she was having, Boughton thought at the time. But it wasn’t unusual coming from this doctor. “Every time I was in there, she’d talk about diet and exercise,” said Boughton, who is 34 and lives in Durham, North Carolina.

On this occasion, three years ago, the OB-GYN told Boughton that losing weight would likely resolve the pelvic pain. The physician brought up diet and exercise at least twice more during the appointment. The doctor said she’d order an ultrasound to put Boughton’s mind at ease.

The ultrasound revealed the source of her pain: a 7-centimeter tumor filled with fluid on Boughton’s left ovary.

“I hate that doctor for the way she treated me — like my pain was no big deal,” Boughton said. “She seemed to make a decision about me based off of a very cursory look.”

Research has long shown that doctors are less likely to respect patients who are overweight or obese, even as nearly three-quarters of adults in the U.S. now fall into one of those categories. Obesity, which characterizes patients whose body mass index is 30 or higher, is pervasive in the South and Midwest, according to the Centers for Disease …

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