Researchers have discovered that overweight people sometimes experience negative outcomes when they seek medical care. Prejudice against heavy people, known as fat shaming in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, leads physicians to attribute some symptoms to weight instead of investigating other possible medical reasons. One of the psychology professors who reviewed research on the subject went so far as to call the unfair treatment malpractice.
She based her statement on the results of 46 studies that investigated biases held by physicians toward obese people. Patients reported that being made to feel ashamed of their weight lowered their trust in the medical provider. The shame inflicted on people when they seek medical care often affected their mental health and caused them to delay asking for care.
The researchers found that physicians tend to prescribe weight loss for their heavier patients instead of ordering scans, blood tests or physical therapy that other people get. The divergent treatment could lead to misdiagnosis. The researchers recommended that physicians cease assuming that weight is causing every problem and that they learn to regard their patients with respect.
When a physician dismisses a patient’s complaints and makes assumptions, medical analysis may suffer. The victim of a misdiagnosis may recover damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Because medical cases face a high burden of proof, an attorney could assist the victim by organizing evidence and collecting testimony from independent experts. A lawyer could also handle negotiations with the negligent party and the insurance company. If the medical provider offers a settlement, an attorney could offer an opinion about whether to take the offer or take the case to trial.