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Doctors shouldn’t have to worry about being derogatory, they should tell people the truth

Doctors have been told that telling obese patients they are fat could be derogatory

Doctors have been told that telling obese patients they are fat could be construed as derogatory

 

In Britain we have a long accepted tendency to beat-about-the-bush. It maybe why people from other countries can sometimes seem abrupt and forthright in their manner of talking, accustomed as we are to people not saying exactly what they mean.

Now it has been suggested by Nice (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) that to tell patients that they are clinically obese could be considered derogatory. Hmmm…

Admittedly, to say to someone “You’re to fat, fatty-fatty fatso” is very derogatory. But to tell a patient, “You’re obese, meaning you’re so fat you’re putting your health at risk,” is not. It is medical advice.

A derogatory statement is one that belittles or disparages the subject. But doctors and medical professionals are not telling fat people they are obese because they want to be derisive. They are also not telling thin people they are fat, so it isn’t like they are trying to be hurtful. They are literally telling obese people they are obese.

The manner in which a statement becomes derogatory is reliant on the manner in which it is said. If I tell my parents they are “old biddies” for instance it is not derisive, it is playful. If I tell a lady-friend who asks that her ass looks huge in those jeans, it isn’t derisive, it’s an opinion. On the other hand, if I went up to a stranger and said they looked fat, it is derisive, because I don’t know them and it was said in a manner that could cause offence.

If doctors went about telling patients with lung cancer that they “might want to stop smoking because of the health risks involved,” it doesn’t provide much help the patient. Instead of telling patients they are morbidly obese, and telling them they should think about eating less because being heavy is bad for their health, doctors would not be informing them that they have a serious health problem.

Do we want to live in a world where doctors don’t tell us we’re ill, but suggest lifestyle choices we might want to make?

As a smoker, if a doctor told me I had lung cancer I would know it was at partially my fault. Ok doc, point taken, I will stop smoking and make some changes to my lifestyle.

If we muddy the waters over these issues, no one will solve their problems, because most problems can only be solved by taking responsibility for their causes. A fat person told they should eat better is less likely to change their habits than one who is told that they are so fat they will die if they don’t change their habits. A similar story could be said with smokers.

It is only the urgency and immediacy of the problem that will get many people to change long-ingrained habits. You don’t get lung cancer from one cigarette, and likewise you don’t get fat from a Big Mac. It is generally overindulgence of both these habits that leads to illness, and if doctors don’t highlight to overindulgers that they aren’t just making bad lifestyle choices ,but are in fact seriously ill, then they will have no impetus to change their ways.

I’m am not saying, and let me be clear about this, that we should go around telling fat people they’re fat, and smokers they’re unhealthy. Deep down inside they probably know this. But in the fields of medicine, psychology, dentistry, etc. professionals should have the freedom to tell their patients the unvarnished truth.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it is their duty to tell people the truth under these conditions.

 

 

 

 

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