Weight Limit Ahead

UK Proposal for Explicit Weight Discrimination in Healthcare

We have a global epidemic in our midst. All over the world, people are blurting out things that they know are wrong. The latest, startling example comes from the UK National Health Service (NHS) in North Yorkshire. Last week, local administrators announced plans for explicit weight discrimination in healthcare.

The plan was to make people with obesity wait for up to a year for surgeries like hip and knee replacements. Part of the proposal was to lift the restriction for people who lose enough weight to take them below a BMI of 30. The ban would have applied to smokers as well.

The outcry was swift and the proposal has been squashed for now.

Bariatric surgeon Shaw Somers compared the move to other noxious forms of discrimination in an interview with the BBC. Speaking about people with obesity, he said:

They are trying to lose weight in the vast majority of cases and to deny them treatment that they need on the basis of their weight, without then offering them effective help to lose weight is rather like discriminating against a segment of the population on the basis of their colour or religious persuasion.

Officials from NHS England called the plans into question almost immediately. A spokesman said:

Reducing obesity and cutting smoking not only benefits patients, but saves the NHS and taxpayers millions of pounds. This does not and cannot mean blanket bans on particular patients such as smokers getting operations, which would be inconsistent with the NHS constitution.

Local officials quickly agreed to rethink their plans.

In healthcare, discrimination like this is actually quite routine and well-documented. But it’s mostly implicit and hidden from routine public view. In a sense, the NHS bureaucrats in North Yorkshire did us a favor with their proposal.

They brought an ugly form of discrimination based on a person’s size out into broad daylight. It is not a pretty sight.

Click here for more from the BBC, here for more from the Independent, and here for more from the Guardian.

Weight Limit Ahead, photograph © Secret Pilgrim / flickr

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September 5, 2016

2 Responses to “UK Proposal for Explicit Weight Discrimination in Healthcare”

  1. September 05, 2016 at 8:06 am, Angela Meadows said:

    Thanks for covering this – I was pleasantly surprised at the outcry. There have been a few attempts like this over the last couple of years, including a council that wanted to withhold benefits from people whose BMI was ‘too high’. As far as I know, most of these have not materialised, but they keep trying.

    • September 05, 2016 at 3:25 pm, Ted said:

      Ever so slightly and ever so slowly, I think people are waking up to understand how noxious size and weight discrimination is. Thanks, Angela.