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Follow-Up: Fat-Hating Doctor In the Clear

Do you remember Dr. Bennett? He was a rather uncooth physician who told a fat patient she wouldn't be attractive to men once her husband died, because she was fat. The good news is that he's in the media again. The bad news is that he's having disciplinary action against him dropped.

Here's the story. It also mentions that this genius advised that same fat patient that she would only be attractive to African-American men because of her weight (!) (!!)

"Let's face it, if your husband were to die tomorrow, who would want you?" the board has said Bennett told the overweight patient in June 2004. "Well, men might want you, but not the types you want to want you. Might even be a black guy," it quoted him as saying, based on the woman's complaint.

What an awesome person! And look at this.

Bennett, 68, has denied making the comment, but has said he's seen polls supporting that position.

"If you look at the polling, nobody likes fat women," he said last year. "Is it right? No. Is it sensible? No. Is it true? Yeah ... Black guys are the only group that don't mind that. Is that racist to say that?"


The whole case was dropped because the AMA's requirement to treat patients with "respect" was ruled unconstitutional due to its vagueness. The judge didn't agree with Bennett's statements (that's a big "duh" for you) but said that he had the right to be "blunt." Hate speech is not being blunt.

So, the next time you visit your doctor, be prepared for racist and sizist remarks. Why? Oh, because he wants to help you!

Bennett plans to sue everyone involved, including the patient, for... ah, who gives a crap. This guy needs to be suspended. This is unacceptable behavior for any decent human being, much less a physician. It's time to put Bennett out to pasture. We can't just roll over on this issue.

Worse, look how this is being twisted in the media. In order to harp on this nation's hot button issue, privacy (or lack thereof), it's being deemed a "free speech" issue. HATE SPEECH IS NOT FREE SPEECH. For goodness' sake.

This issue is one that can not go away. We need to send a message to this doctor and this state that this kind of hatred shouldn't be condoned.

What To Do

First of all, if you live in New Hampshire, contact the State's Board of Medicine. Tell them that you want Dr. Bennett stripped of his duties. Then, contact all of the media in New Hampshire. Let's put the pressure on.

If you're not in NH, you can still absolutely contact the media and spread this link - or a link to the article, or the discussion - far and wide.

[Thanks, pani!]

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paul July 9th, 2006 | Link | Per the Board of Medicine's
Per the Board of Medicine's site FAQs, they handle complaints about "dishonest or unprofessional conduct." But they give themselves a disclaimer there, too: "Complaints regarding high fees, rudeness or 'poor bedside manner' do not ordinarily violate one of the above provisions unless they also involve dishonesty or exploitation or gross negligence on the part of the physician."
sabrina July 9th, 2006 | Link | What a jerk! Besides the
What a jerk! Besides the comments about rudeness toward the large sized woman, I find it very disturbing that he advised someone else to kill themself after brain surgery. Surely, that comment should get disciplinary action alone.
BLR July 9th, 2006 | Link | I have to take issue with
I have to take issue with this: "HATE SPEECH IS NOT FREE SPEECH." Free speech is free speech, regardless of how disgusting we may find it. The KKK has an equal right to the expression of their ideas as we do the expression of ours. Having said that, this doctor should have been held accountable to the NH Board of Medicine, because his conduct was thoroughly unprofessional, and that SHOULD be disciplined within his profession.
2DayIs4Me July 9th, 2006 | Link | Yeah, I especially like
Yeah, I especially like (*NOT*) his comment that "nobody" likes fat women (ahem) followed by his assertion, "Is it true? Yeah ... Black guys are the only group that don't mind that." Oh, so (even if that were true) Black guys are "nobody?" Oh, really. Um, EVEN IF the rest of it weren't already so offensive, just the notion that "Black guys" count as "nobody" - um - WTF? This dude should not be practicing medicine. I sure hope he doesn't have any Black male patients.
Bilt4Cmfrt July 10th, 2006 | Link | Ok, I'm pissed! The fact
Ok, I'm pissed! The fact that this *Quote* Doctor *Unquote* might be an idiot is not so much of a surprise to me. I've personally had to deal with both Dr.'s and attorneys in business settings that have made me seriously wonder off the backs of which cereal boxes some of them got their degree's. This 'Physician', however, is in a field all by himsel. MY letter to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine shall be forthcoming. The ruling indicates that no actual damage was done. As most of us know, attempting to make, basically, ANYONE change their behavior by upbraiding, disparaging, or insulting them usually ends up having the exact opposite of the desired effect. In this case the 'good' Dr may well be driving patients AWAY from seeking medical attention when they require it. Which begs the question: Why would someone trying to help another person in need without causing them further trouble- in effect, doing no harm- wish to create ANY ambivalence about seeking future aid in the person their trying to help? Gross negligence is a fairly wide umbrella that can cover quite a few things. Too the woman how decided she wasn't going to take it: If your out there and reading this and are able to/interested in an appeal, don't just sit back and let your attorney handle everything. Stay on them, stay with them. MAKE them give you your moneys worth. 90 percent of law is strategy so don't be afraid of an offensive/defensive strategy that might not make you look all that good in the short run but might win you the case in the long. That's one of the reasons these things are sometimes called 'legal battles'.
pani113 July 10th, 2006 | Link | A wee part of me wishes the
A wee part of me wishes the good doctor lived in Chicago!
FatGrrl July 10th, 2006 | Link | Retch. This makes me so
Retch. This makes me so angry, I don't even know where to begin. What makes me most angry are the ignorant folks who are going to come down on the side of the doctor, and recycle the tired argument that those lazy, digusting fat folks just bring it on themselves. "They deserve it - if only they would stop stuffing their faces then people would think they were beautiful, and black men would stop hitting on them." WTF?
Euterpist July 10th, 2006 | Link | Once again, the willful
Once again, the willful ignorance of some in the medical profession takes my breath away. It's been demonstrated time and again for over 40 years that fat, in and of itself, has very little causative relationship to disease and that only 2% to 5% of diets work long term, yet doctors completely ignore that research and continue to blame their patients for their own obesity. I had a friend (an internist, no less) who ended our 17-year friendship in part because she "couldn't watch [me] end up like John Candy." Of course, she went from being puffy due to sub-clinical hypothyroidism to being an exercise anorexic, so I don't hold her opinions on weight matters in very high esteem.
Cty July 11th, 2006 | Link | My mom has a doctor in CA
My mom has a doctor in CA who seems to have taken a page out of Bennett's book. He's into tough love and straight shooting and being blunt and taking names and kicking butt, or at least that's how he describes his actions. I would call him a self-important jerk. I'm going to have to go with BLR on the main issue though: Bennett, much as he's a pathetic excuse for a human, does have the right to say what he wants. However, that doesn't mean that he didn't overstep his professional boundaries in a big way. It also doesn't mean that he shouldn't be disciplined for his actions. Think about it in a very basic sense: on the job, none of us have absolute freedom. There are dress codes, ethical codes, NDAs and so on. What Bennett says and doesn't say to patients should be regulated by his profession's governing board and by his individual place of employment in the same way that things like patient confidentiality are mandated. It's up to them to say that abusive and derogatory speech, regardless of Bennett's general rights, isn't acceptable if he wants to continue being employed with them. And, in case it wasn't obvious, I think they should declare that fat-bashing is intolerable in a very public way.
vargas July 12th, 2006 | Link | This doctor is going to come
This doctor is going to come back and sue everyone involved? I hope his case gets thrown right out of court. Not only is it ok for him to be sizest but he feels it was his right to decide what all black men/white men are attracted to, huh? Talk about asinine. There's a difference between poor bedside manner and cruelty. To suggest to a woman that she isn't attractive because of her size, to drag race into it and try to rub his own prejudices about race and fat in her face is purposefully nasty behavior. He comes off smelling like a steaming pile of doggy-doo to me. He ought to be drummed right out of the profession.
yalie July 12th, 2006 | Link | Hate speech is definitely
Hate speech is definitely free speech.
pckim July 12th, 2006 | Link | I'm starting to think maybe
I'm starting to think maybe free speech isn't all it's cracked up to be.
DeeLeigh July 12th, 2006 | Link | Hate speech is free speech.
Hate speech is free speech. However, let's get his straight. We're not talking about legality. We're talking about professionalism. Professionals such as doctors, attorneys, and engineers are held to a much higher standard of conduct than straight-forward criminal and civil law would dictate. Professional organizations such as the have New Hampshire Board of Medicine (where the complaint was filed) have the power to disipline professionals who are licensed under state law. The most severe action they can take is license suspension, effectively excluding the person under question from professional practice. This is not the same thing as a lawsuit. This doctor's speech is governed by the standards of his profession, not just by the bill of rights.
Aurora July 13th, 2006 | Link | Several years ago, I was
Several years ago, I was working with a doctor while trying to get pregnant. I had some complicating issues. After polyps were removed from my uterus and it appeared all was set for trying to get pregnant, the doctor told me, and I quote directly, "Pregnancy is supposed to be beautiful and healthy. It can be neither at your current weight. Come back to me when you've lost 100 pounds." I walked out and never went back. I voted with my $$ but I never should have been in that position. My husband and I moved to a new town and to guarantee that I wouldn't go through that again, I interviewed doctors, asking specifically about the issue of size before I even made an appointment. The reproductive endocrinologist I interviewed seemed pretty shocked by the question, then said, "Mrs. P, if it weren't for overweight women, I wouldn't have a practice." My ob/gyn has treated me with nothing but complete respect. They're out there, but it's a damned shame we have to do this to find them. Where can you work where you can say anything you want? Please, point me in the direction of that job!
vargas July 14th, 2006 | Link | "Where can you work where
"Where can you work where you can say anything you want? Please, point me in the direction of that job!" Ditto! Thank you DeeLeigh and Aurora for explaining so eloquently that disrespectful speech from professionals, while legal, still has consequences. The whole "hate speech is free speech" mantra is tired and needs to be laid to rest.
BLR July 15th, 2006 | Link | "The whole 'hate speech is
"The whole 'hate speech is free speech' mantra is tired" Free speech is hardly a "tired" idea. The notion of free speech typically refers to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the first amendment. There is nothing about that portion of the bill of rights that says, "You're free to say anything that I agree with." Hate speech and inappropriate behavior should be vigorously monitored and punished by the organizations that are responsible for establishing what equates to the morality of a profession. This, of course, typically has nothing to do with the first amendment, and everything to do with standards of behavior by trained professionals.
vargas July 15th, 2006 | Link | Yes, it IS tired. And like I
Yes, it IS tired. And like I said before, which has been repeated quite a few times on this board already, the right to be an ass and blurt out any insulting remark you see fit to blurt out while on the job, while legal, still can and SHOULD carry consequences.
BLR July 19th, 2006 | Link | I don't think anyone here
I don't think anyone here has said that he doesn't deserve consequences for his unprofessional actions. Where have you seen that?
Helena August 17th, 2006 | Link | Hi all! I just wanted to
Hi all! I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of you that have sent kind words my way. My name is Helena, and I'm the patient that Dr. Bennett insulted. When this whole thing blew up, I couldn't stop torturing myself by reading all of the negative comments that were being made about me. It was like a nightmare. I went to a psychologist... and was just so scared, depressed, horrified... god, it was a real tough time for me. Scared is truly an understatement. I just wanted to scream at all of those negative people --- "I never NEVER asked for ANY of this!!!" I didn't sue Dr. Bennett -- I just filed a complaint. It was my right. Just as he has a "right to free speech". When found this site, and read your kind comments the first time, I cried. It felt so good to be supported. I just wanted to say "Thank you" Thank you so very much! You helped me get through it! Helena
Morrighan August 17th, 2006 | Link | Hi Helena ^^ Of course you
Hi Helena ^^ Of course you never asked for any of this. Bennett had a right to say what he wanted (unfortunately having the right to say what you want doesn't come with the brains to not say something stupid), you had the right to complain, and now I only hope he hasn't turned you off to -all- doctors because you still have the right to expect good health care. *hugs* And remember, being brave isn't about not ever being scared. It's about doing something even though you're scared. This makes you a very brave woman.
fatthought August 17th, 2006 | Link | Helena, I know you filed the
Helena, I know you filed the complaint on your own behalf, after having been insulted by a doctor whose intelligence and professionalism seemingly deserted him when he talked to you. But I just want to say that your filing this complaint and the courage you showed in the ensuing controversy make it a little easier for those of us who meet up with similarly stupid and unprofessional physicians to take the step you did - i.e., filing a complaint. Thanks for giving us the courage to follow in your footsteps.
Helena August 17th, 2006 | Link | I just popped back on to see
I just popped back on to see if anyone responded... omg! I'm here at work, (I know, I know! I shouldn't be doing this here!!!) Thank you - I have tears welling up right now. You just don't know what this means to me. All this time, I've been quiet - too scared to come out. Now I wish I had done this sooner. I remember when this all came out - and when I found all of your posts. I remember some of you actually writing to the Atty Gen's office. I asked her about it in one of our meetings, and she confirmed that indeed - there were many letters sent. Wow. All I can say is --- YOU ALL ROCK. ;)

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