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Holy Crap: New Zealand Bans Fat Woman from Entering Country


Back in July, doctors in New Zealand promoted the idea to ban fat people from entering their country. It sounded crazy. It was crazy.

But now, it has happened. 35-year-old Rowan Trezise has been rejected from entering New Zealand. Her husband had applied for a work visa and, in fact, chose to lose weight to get admitted himself.

His employer-backed skills visa was initially rejected by immigration officials when they discovered that his body mass index, or BMI, was 42, making him morbidly obese under New Zealand regulations.

Mr Trezise, a submarine cable specialist and a former soldier, said: "My doctor laughed at me. He said he’d never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit."

Nice doctor! To contrast:

Robyn Toomath, a spokesman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic and an endocrinologist, said the BMI limit was valid in the vast majority of people.

She said she was opposed to obese people being stigmatised. "However, the immigration department’s focus is different," she said. "It cannot afford to import people into the country who are going to be a significant drain on our health resources.

(emphasis mine)

I'm not surprised that Ms. Toomath, with a vested interest, is willing to pitch some doublespeak. On the one hand she doesn't want fat people stigmatized; on the other hand she's willing to sit by while the immigration department does just that. Man, I thought the US government was lazy.

Are you scared? Are you angry? I am.

What's going on in New Zealand could easily happen anywhere. We're seen as a "significant drain" based on shoddy studies, bad science, and societal stereotyping. And now, we're being kept out of entire countries. I pity anyone who doesn't see this for the out and out discrimination it is, and I am angry at anyone who would support this sizist policy.

Absolutely despicable. [Many people sent this in - thank you.]

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rebelle November 20th, 2007 | Link | So, she's opposed to

So, she's opposed to stigmatizing fat people, but can say, without blinking, that if your BMI is above X then you are automatically a drain on healthcare resources? How is it possible this woman does not realize that making ASSUMPTIONS based on weight IS stigmatizing weight? Amazing.

rebelle November 20th, 2007 | Link | Oops. I wrote too quickly,

Oops. I wrote too quickly, before I saw that you'd already made this point. Sorry, Paul.

Meowzer November 20th, 2007 | Link | So does that mean anyone who

So does that mean anyone who has ever had a potentially costly health problem will be kept out of NZ? Anyone who has had an ongoing psychiatric disorder requiring treatment? Anyone who has been an alcoholic or drug abuser or heavy smoker in the past -- since even if they've quit, they've already done substantial damage to their bodies? Anyone who has ever had cancer? Diabetics? (Yeah, I know, all fat people are diabetics waiting to happen, bar har, but hey, at least type 1's are Innocent Victims, unlike all those type 2 self-indulgent Pepsiholic donut-pounding fatasses!) Anyone in a wheelchair? Anyone with an autoimmune or neurodegenerative disorder? And anyone who is married to anyone or has children with one or more of those problems also?

Something tells me their brain drain will be ongoing. Unless, of course, healthism is just an excuse to keep the ugly people out. Naaah, couldn't be. Shocked

wriggle99 November 21st, 2007 | Link | Pay for your lies

Well I'll avoid buying any products from New Zealand and let their embassy know exactly why. Let me make this clear though, I don't believe in stigmatizing Kiwi's, I just don't want to sully them with my dirty fat money (such as it is!).

lilacsigil November 21st, 2007 | Link | I can understand using

I can understand using health as one of the many criteria for granting a visa, but weight is not a valid criterion to assess an individual. Blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis? Sure! But the woman in question is not said to have any of these. Maybe she needs to consult that entirely neutral and professional endocrinologist for a second opinion! Why don't they ban Pacific Islanders because they are more likely to develop diabetes? Or people of Scottish descent who are more likely to develop MS - a very, very costly disease?

Nope - fat is more visible, and no-one wants to stand up for a fattie, lest they catch obesity. It's an epidemic, you know.

To the poster above who questions whether people with other conditions (or married to, or parents of people with other conditions) would be kept out: the answer is yes. It's already happening. Families wanting to emigrate to Australia have been denied permanent residency (even both parents are already working in Australia as scientists for some years) and, in another case, forced to leave a young daughter behind with her grandparents in India because she was denied a visa. In both cases, the child had cerebral palsy - a high-care but not progressive condition.

Fillyjonk's picture
November 21st, 2007 | Link | Meowzer: Not to mention,

Meowzer: Not to mention, according to an article I just read, possibly anyone with a low birth weight! The evidence linking LBW to heart disease and diabetes seems at least as compelling as the evidence linking those things to obesity. Dig up the neonatal medical records of potential immigrants, I say!

And while you're at it, did you know that at least in this country, blacks are more likely to die of pretty much every disease than whites? Couldn't be lack of balance in medical care Must be something inherent. Keep 'em out! Build a fence!

Honestly, I know it's immigration's job to be horrifically bigoted and xenophobic, but I expected better of NZ.

chondros November 21st, 2007 | Link | This story made me think

This story made me think about the peak years of immigration to the U.S. from Europe between the 1890s and the First World War. There will all sorts of things that could get you rejected or red-flagged by the officials at Ellis island -- the famous chalk marks indicating things like lameness, goiter, possible mental defect, conjuntivitis, etc.

Nowadays, I think, the tendency is to see the medical scrutiny of those immigrants as excessive and slightly sinister. But I wonder whether anyone in that period would have felt the need to be wary about a fat immigrant -- or whether this is an invention of our own time.

DeeLeigh's picture
November 21st, 2007 | Link | I'm sure it's an invention

I'm sure it's an invention of our time. In more sensible times, fatness was more likely to be seen as a sign of health.

Is there any real evidence that fat people cost the health care system more than average? I've never seen any. I wouldn't be surprised if we're less expensive than average, since many of us have had bad experiences with doctors and, as a result, avoid them whenever possible.

creeloo November 21st, 2007 | Link | Last year in Australia, some

Last year in Australia, some consultancy group that does economic forecasting and such put out a report that "obesity" costs Australia $21 billion a year. They based that on counting up how many fat people there were and assuming that a certain percentage of a certain set of diseases and conditions "known" to be "caused" by obesity.

The media went off on it, and nearly everyone failed to properly read the report. It was assumed that the conclusion of the report was "fat people cost the public purse $21 billion a year". Even with the shoddy statistics, however, it actually found that sick fat people, as defined by the report's parameters, cost Medicare around $2 billion a year. Which might also sound shocking to some, but SPORTS INJURIES cost Medicare about the same, and no one's wringing their hands about how there's an epidemic of sports injuries and we have to get people to stop playing any sports learn to play indoor board games instead. The other $19 billion or so per year? That was determined to be borne largely by fat people themselves, such as time off work, etc.

Meowzer November 21st, 2007 | Link | "Fat people cost the public

"Fat people cost the public purse $21 billion a year." And wouldn't if they'd only slim down, which they could do easily if they weren't so stupid and selfish. Never mind that the number itself is probably bogus. Never mind that health care for the elderly is an expense that dwarfs that of younger fat people. We don't begrudge the elderly their care because we think growing old is inevitable and being fat is entirely a matter of free choice. People wonder why we get so defensive about our living habits, why we feel like we have to "prove" we didn't just stuff ourselves fat like people force-feed foie-gras geese. Shit like this is why. Not that it's any excuse to deny people health care even if they don't have the world's greatest habits, but still.

Bagfish's picture
November 21st, 2007 | Link | This has been run in the UK

This has been run in the UK Guardian paper, and this little article exposes the true prejudice of the media as well as the immigration staff because it ends:

"It can work the other way. Australia, famously strict with its entrance requirements and literalist about BMIs, last year refused citizenship to a healthy British woman who wasn't heavy enough."

Note the emphasis on a healthy British woman who wasn't heavy enough. Cos obviously as we all know you can NEVER be too thin, and thin is NEVER unhealthy unlike fat which is always unhealthy /sarcasm

richie79's picture
November 21st, 2007 | Link | Meowzer, forgive me if I'm

Meowzer, forgive me if I'm wrong but i'm sure I read that both Australia and NZ already disbar current or ex-smokers, alcoholics, drug users etc from settling; both countries have very restrictive points-based immigration systems in order to 'protect' their relatively generous social security and healthcare systems.

It's hardly surprising they have such a lack of skills in key areas when they're so fussy over who they let in - out of pure curiosity I once completed an online points assessment for Australia and fell well short of the threshold despite being a qualified town planner, which is supposedly a shortage occupation (they actively recruit for emigrants in British planning publications).

And I can't imagine the fact that Mr. Trezize was forced to resort to crash dieting will have done his health a whole load of good. I can only wonder whether he or his wife should jump through this BMI hoop only to inevitably regain the weight with interest, they will find themselves frogmarched to the airport and put on the next flight back to the UK.

The sad fact is that all countries with socialised medical and welfare provision are looking to cut the spiralling costs of these systems, and many prosperous Anglophone nations are also seeking to limit mass immigration. Unlike many forms of rationing, excluding fat people is an easy tactic which can be carried out without mass protest (in the UK it even seems to enjoy popular support; gotta punish those evil fatties!)

I thought things were bad in the UK - though given the historical close relationship between the Commonweath countries and our Labour Party's love of grabbing headlines about obesity and immigration, politicians here are also no doubt watching this development intently .

Moe's picture
November 21st, 2007 | Link | Next it will only be blonde

Next it will only be blonde hair, blue eyed people allowed to exist, oh wait, didn't we have that happen already.

I wonder if they let fat tourists into the country? New Zealand was on the top of my list of places to see but now it's right off the list. I'm so sad for so many reasons. I feel sorry for this woman being humiliated like this. The whole mess is ridiculous.

BabySeal November 22nd, 2007 | Link | Moe, I guess that indeed

Moe, I guess that indeed they will allow fat tourists... tourists bring money in and then leave and go back to "where they belong", don't they? (heavy sarcasm)

I too was planning on visiting New Zeland some day, but now I've changed my mind.

wriggle99 November 22nd, 2007 | Link | Let them know!

Good for you Moe and BabySeal, make sure you write to them and tell them this! Sticking out tongue

vargas November 23rd, 2007 | Link | I'm stunned by this. They

I'm stunned by this. They talk about out of control health care costs and not wanting to tax their health care system, BUT, isn't that system supported by huge taxes paid by everyone living in the country who has gainful employment? These people immigrating into the country are educated people who are qualified for good paying jobs and they will pay taxes on their income which is more money going into the system. It would seem to me that this would mitigate any supposed pressures on the universal health care system in the country.

If these people who possess badly needed skills are allowed into the country to work they will have to pay taxes won't they? Taxes that go into supporting that system. So the idea that they don't want anyone taxing their health care system which is supported by everyone's taxes anyway doesn't compute! Or maybe I've got it wrong here! Puzzled Puzzled

goddess's picture
November 23rd, 2007 | Link | Okay. I think what we're

Okay. I think what we're seeing is the latest medical fad. There was phrenology (the science of reading the bumps on people's heads), leeches, and medically sanctioned "proof" that darker races had lower intelligences than paler persons. And we're not talking about the Middle Ages, either. I think it could be part of our response strategy to invoke the historic junk science that made up medical mainstream thinking of the past. At least it will cause some people to wonder if we might be right.

I don't much care to wait around for the AMA to turn the tables, though. I'm thinking I like the idea of boycotting products from New Zealand--perhaps our newly formed fat rights organization could get this going and make a small splash on the scene? We could get our sympathizers to join us. It wouldn't be that hard to stop eating kiwis--I boycotted California grapes for YEARS, along with most of my friends--union stuff and bad treatment of migrant workers--and it worked. (Actually, if we do boycott, we'd better find out what else New Zealand exports to us.)

Moody Blue's picture
Moody Blue
November 23rd, 2007 | Link | Hmmm. Just an observation on

Hmmm. Just an observation on my part, but anytime I've run into the uninsured indigent poor at our local ER, they are mostly "average" (whatever the hell that is) weight. Thumbs down to New Zealand. They don't need me and they certainly would never need my business. Isn't Citgo a New Zealand company? I'll check that out but if it's true, I'll no longer purchase their $3.13 per gallon gasoline.

Meowzer November 23rd, 2007 | Link | I'm stunned by this. They

I'm stunned by this. They talk about out of control health care costs and not wanting to tax their health care system, BUT, isn't that system supported by huge taxes paid by everyone living in the country who has gainful employment?

And that's just it. I get really frigging tired of everyone talking about fat people's health care like we're mooching off the system, when we pay just as much into it as anyone else does. Why am I supposed to keep paying taxes and premiums and never use what I'm supposed to be paying for? Especially since I don't have a single health problem as a fatass that I didn't also have when I was thinner. Not one.

Morrighan's picture
November 24th, 2007 | Link | Well if you ever need proof

Well if you ever need proof that it's all largely based on class, there it is. When they say "fat people are a drain on teh health care!!!!" what they're -really- saying is "man, I'm tired of paying my dues -and- for all those fat asses to sit around on welfare, popping out babies and still driving a car better than mine." It's why it's going to be such a long uphill struggle. That's the middle class talking, the ones that know deep down how little it would take for them to be the ones at the bottom and it's their worst fear. If you look at it from their point of view... the poverty class is predominately non-white and fat. They can't justifiably fear becoming a different race by any stretch of the imagination, so that just leaves fat to latch onto as Cain's Mark. Especially as long as the media and "scientists" keep telling them fat is something they can, and should, fight.

It's all about feeding the fear and keeping people distracted. Because Gods forbid if the middle class should ever start focusing on something our governments want us to turn a blind eye too. Like I don't know.... say... that we have the technology for alternate power for our cars, but oil makes lots of "important" people far too much money.

BabySeal November 24th, 2007 | Link | " when we pay just as much

" when we pay just as much into it as anyone else does"

You know, I think they're having a hard time wrapping their small minds around the fact that fat people actually *do* contribute to something. After all, we're supposed to sit around all day stuffing our faces with the most unhealty food around, according to the stereotypes. If they admitted that fat people work like everyone else, are productive like anyone else, and contribute to the system as much as the next person, the idea of fat as a moral issue would be overturned, and they don't want this to happen.

goddess's picture
November 24th, 2007 | Link | Morrighan, you took the

Morrighan, you took the words right out of my mouth--the class/race issue is right there in front of everybody. I feel like I've heard all the anti fat epithets being used on poor people my whole life: they're (we're) lazy, ignorant, make bad decisions about taking care of themselves, drain everybody else's resources, and refuse to even admit to all the mistakes they're making. And then they have the nerve to parade themselves in public. They'll surely die untimely deaths as punishment for all that bad living.
However, I believe we have no steeper an uphill than groups that have come before us. The majorities have always put up powerful, enduring resistance against upstarts who try to get equal treatment. We can expect the resistance to become scarier as we gather to show our strength.
So be it.

Euterpist's picture
December 1st, 2007 | Link | Except that we don't make as much money as everyone else

As a percentage of wages, we pay as much as everyone else, but as we are frequently paid less, we pay fewer actual dollars, so we can't expect to be able to get as many actual dollars out. /sarcasm

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