August 24, 2005 at 5:17 pm
Evidently Dr. Terry Bennett of New Hampshire believes dating tips are the same thing as medical advice. Dr. Bennett is at the center of the fat news story of the day in which an obese patient of his lodged a complaint against him. He told her she was so obese that she was going to outlive her husband and would then be unable to get a new man because no one would find her attractive.
Now, I have no problem with doctors telling patients they need to lose weight. Obesity kills and I’m sure doctors see lots of patients over the years who develop problems that could have been prevented by better diet and more exercise. It must be very frustrating knowing so many people could avoid sickness if they could only lose weight. My mother’s physician in particular has been aggressive about preventing my mother from developing diabetes by making her monitor her blood sugar carefully and lose some weight.
However, not once did my mother’s doctor say Mom needed to lose weight because she was unfuckable.
Most of the articles on this story have spun it as though the woman was mad that Dr. Bennett told her she needed to lose weight. No. ERRR! Wrong answer. Thank you for playing. The problem here is that the doctor overstepped his bounds and started giving non-medical opinions.
There are a couple things offensive about his comments. First off, he implies that as soon as this woman’s husband dies she will have to find a new husband. Too bad he didn’t tell her the wake would be a great place to start picking up guys. People always dress so nicely when they’re going to funerals and they’re super sweet to widows. It’s pick-up central! It’s not like she might have a period of grief here or that it is not necessary to be married to have a happy, full life. The doctor appears to be in his 60’s or 70’s, so perhaps he is still keyed into a 1950’s view of women’s roles in the world.
Second, whether you believe that fat women can’t get dates or not, the doctor needs to keep his opinion about what is attractive to himself. A person’s beauty has nothing to do with medicine unless you’re a plastic surgeon. He’s her general practitioner, not her fashion consultant. I would agree that in general it is more difficult for fat women to get dates. However if you’re self-confident and put yourself out there enough, even the most hideous person can find someone to score with. Even if you don’t believe that anyone would date a fat person, I will remind you that there are also fat men in the world who might be having trouble getting dates as well. Perhaps the two groups could hook up? Personally I think fat people are just as capable as getting a date as anyone, though they might have to try a little harder than a Cindy Crawford clone. My mother works at David’s Bridal and I assure you they stock dresses up to size 28. So yes, fat people do in fact mate and get married.
And finally, the doctor’s comments irk me because they underscore the gender bias that exists towards fat people. Essentially, it is okay to be a fat man if you are wealthy or have a good career, however if you are fat woman you are screwed because your worth in society is more likely based on how attractive you are. The doctor didn’t take into account this woman’s intelligence, sense of humor, friendliness or lack of any of these traits when he judged her dating prospects, he just considered her weight. He didn’t tell her being overweight would make her subject to discrimination in her career, just the effects it would have on her ability to attract the other sex. I doubt he would have said the same thing to a man.
Dr. Bennett most likely meant well, he just took the wrong approach with his patient. I saw his interview on the “Today” show and it seems he’s just too arrogant to admit his error. He could have made the whole mess go away by agreeing to take some education courses, but he won’t sign the paper admitting he was a disruptive physician. It’s too bad. If he could see his mistake he could probably better communicate with his obese patients in the future which would most likely lead to more success for both doctor and patient.
This event is representative of the major problem physicians have when talking to obese patients. They ultimately want to help the person, but it is difficult to address the problem without being cruel or abrasive. Many obese people feel so berated or embarrassed by their doctor that they won’t return to them when they have other health problems. They can feel so intimidated by the position of authority the doctor holds that they are too scared to address their complaints directly. Also, if the doctor is fat, they can be viewed as a hypocrite. If they are thin, they can be seen as unsympathetic to the patient. And if they are insensitive, they can be seen as an asshole, as Dr. Bennett has clearly shown.