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Fat shaming by doctors could be hazardous to patient health

New Jersey residents rely on their doctors to be honest, informative and accurate when giving them medical advice. But some psychologists believe that medical doctors may do harm if they cross the line from advising lifestyle changes to what could be classified as shaming their patients. At issue is fat shaming, which, according to research presented to the American Psychological Association, can damage patients mentally and physically and may be a form of malpractice.

Researchers at Connecticut College reviewed patient reports of fat shaming by their doctors and doctors' biases towards obesity and how it relates to a patient's health. The research showed that doctors consistently tell overweight patients to lose weight, while other patients with the same medical issues are referred for blood work, CAT scans or physical therapy.

One researcher calls this medical negligence. The review of 46 past studies also indicates that fat shaming can cause patients to lose confidence in their doctor. That could lead to patients putting off seeing their doctor, which could lead to more medical problems. The researchers say that doctors should receive training on treating patients of all physical sizes with equal respect.

The emotional effect of fat shaming by a doctor could be considered a psychological matter, but if a doctor makes an assumption, for example, that a patient's high blood pressure is caused by obesity, and the doctor does not investigate other possible causes, a disease could go untreated and become worse. This could be a case of medical malpractice, and patients who have been harmed in such a manner might want to discuss their situation with an attorney.

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R.C. Shea & Associates, Counsellors at Law
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Toms River, NJ 08754

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