Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Scalia’s Death Linked to Obesity and Its Complications

In a letter from his physician, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been attributed to obesity and a long list of its complications, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and degenerative joint disease. In a February 16 letter, Rear Admiral Brian Monahan stated that his “many significant medical conditions led to his death.” Monahan, who was Scalia’s attending physician, also noted that the justice smoked.

Commenting on this news, physicians noted that sudden death for a person with this assortment of medical conditions at age 79 is entirely unsurprising. Professor David Zich of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine described Scalia’s conditions as “quite dangerous.” Zich also inadvertently illustrated the fact that a person with obesity cannot count on getting help from a physician for obesity. He said he would simply advise the patient to stop smoking and lose weight:

Those are the main two things someone in his position can do himself. The rest falls on the physician to medically manage blood pressure and make sure their blood sugar levels are controlled well.

Zich summed up a core problem we face. People dealing with obesity and tobacco dependence are on their own. Doctors recognize that these are serious medical conditions. Evidence-based treatments are available. But most doctors will tell you, as Zich said, that obesity is a do-it-yourself problem.

Fortunately, the growing discipline of obesity medicine, along with awareness that obesity is a complex, chronic disease, will inevitably change this deplorable fact.

Click here to read more from the Washington Post.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, photograph © Stephen Masker / Wikimedia

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February 24, 2016

2 Responses to “Scalia’s Death Linked to Obesity and Its Complications”

  1. February 24, 2016 at 6:12 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thanks, Ted. This is a sad reminder.

    And I shudder to think that even as accomplished and learned a human as Justice Scalia likely harbored misperceptions about the relative harms of nicotine products.


    • February 24, 2016 at 7:39 am, Ted said:

      DIY medical care. Sometimes you need a professional on your side. Thanks, Joe.