Doctor Refusing Obese Patients: Weighing In

My Diet Matters
doctor refusing obese patients

As I turned on the morning news the other day, the attention grabbing “teaser” headliner was about a doctor in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts who refused to treat anyone weighing more than 200 pounds (link to the story). If you haven’t heard it, the recap is that an internal medicine doctor has decided to reject all new patients weighing over 200 pounds. This doctor indicates that her staff has been “hurt” by handling these heavier people. But, she acknowledged that those patients already in her practice and weighing 200 pounds were grandfathered in. She stated that some of these grandfathered patients ended up losing weight after her office policy started. The doctor further states that there is an excellent university affiliated medical facility nearby that can better treat obese patients. Will your doctor be the next one to refuse treating obese patients?

This scenario begs the question, “is this a new trend in the medicine?” Will the United States evolve to medically managed weight loss centers for all people classified as obese?

If a doctor is refusing obese patients, then who should take responsibility?

Mayor Bloomberg restricts soda pop. Michelle Obama encourages us to plant vegetable gardens. But what can individuals and society really do to take responsibility? This will become even more pressing of a concern to individuals if primary care doctors begin to refuse treating heavier patients on a wider scale. If those heavier people are required to find access to health care in settings equipped to handle their special needs, this could also potentially handicap the weight loss process even more.

Failing at weight management

Right now, we are failing in managing our weight as a nation. We did not come to this point because of one problem. Many people are not inclined to move around. For safety reasons, we may stay inside (dodging bullets). We sit in front of computers all day. Or, play video games rather than dodge ball. And, we may eat out constantly. While eating out is a great treat, doing so too often really insures your calories are too high. This translates to weight gain. Unless you are training for a marathon or triathlon, you still need to manage your calories to manage your weight. All too often, those that workout regularly still forget the calories) of the food they consume. So, again, what are some solutions?

What’s the solution?

I do not have a simple solution because there is not necessarily a simple solution. There are too many factors causing this national crisis. Our current societal complexities seem to set us up for obesity at this point. Both physicians and patients need to take responsibility for slimming down the nation. But, if the new trend is your doctor refusing obese patients, more of the responsibility will end up with the patient.

Other options

Apparently, it is perfectly legal for this doctor to screen her patients according to weight limits. If this is her permanent intent, she should make a point of offering up other options. Doctors can refer to other health care providers-dietitians, therapists, and trainers! And, how about keeping those business cards of dietitians, therapists, and trainers on hand for patients. They will be appreciative. There is no magic solution here. The message to move more and eat less is perceived as “boring” by many. And to many, this simple message is not really simple. After all, how much should one really eat and move in order to both prevent and manage obesity?

What can we do as a nation? Please provide input to this question directly on my blog.  I look forward to your comments.

Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN

Sue Rose helps readers sort through the maze of nutrition information available to the public. As a seasoned clinical dietitian/nutritionist with decades of experience, her blogs attempt to educate and inform the public at a time when there is so much information it is often overwhelming to understand. Stay tuned for clarity on a variety of topics!


Use this information at your own risk. Although I am a licensed IL dietitian/nutritionist, I am not your dietitian. The information in my blog Chew on This located at is for educational and informational purposes only. It is also my own opinion and subject to change in the future. Please consult with your own medical professionals for individual treatment.