Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

Why Aren't You Angry About WLS?

Here in the US, the Department of Health and Human Resources made news last week for proposing a new law that would give any medical professional the ability to refuse participation in abortion-related surgeries solely due to morality. As an example, if a woman wanting an abortion went to a doctor whose personal beliefs were anti-abortion, that doctor could say no and walk away with the full backing of the US Government.

Understandably this is a controversial proposal. I found that interesting as there has been similar controversy surrounding pharmacists and birth control; some states and big chains support pharmacists' personal beliefs over patients' needs and wants, and it appears this legislation could be interpreted to support those beliefs due to its ambiguity.

I see both of these instances as examples of how abortion - a surgical procedure - is intertwined with morals and beliefs. It's a big vote of confidence by the Bush administration in the beliefs of individuals.

Upon hearing this news, one of the first things I considered was the morality of weight loss surgery (WLS). In very basic medical terms one form of WLS can involve a doctor removing part of a person's stomach and intestines; it's not trivial. WLS has received more attention over the past few years as something risky and dangerous; nevertheless it's still considered a viable option by many doctors for many patients.

And yet I rarely see or hear news stories about the morality of this decision; I'm wondering why this is. WLS is a surgery with long lasting physical and emotional consequences. It can kill. It can shorten one's life. It can reinforce negative psychological behaviors. It's a money-maker. It can be prescribed by over-eager doctors. And yet, there's no debate I'm seeing in a public space about this procedure.

That's not to say it's not happening of course. If you've seen it on the web, TV, radio, or elsewhere please feel free to link it up.

My concern stems from the lack of apparent discourse and more importantly the lack of outrage about WLS outside of the fat rights movement. Could it be that the assumption out there that fat people eat too much (or exercise too little - whichever misconception you choose) trumps any argument of morality? Has the mortality of the decision been moved to any point prior to the surgery? Does the outrage need to come from a more established place (ie, not the fat rights movement) in order to gain a foothold? I'd like to discuss this.

(And I feel the need to add a disclaimer: yes, some may interpret my post to be a comparison of abortion and WLS. It's not intended that way - I'm more interested in a comparison of the moral question. We do our movement and any form of civilized discussion an enormous disservice if we decide to disallow or censor comparisons.)

Publicly Fat in Australia - Part 3 | Alabama

rachelr's picture
rachelr
August 25th, 2008 | Link | Could it be that the

Could it be that the assumption out there that fat people eat too much (or exercise too little - whichever misconception you choose) trumps any argument of morality?

I don't think this is the reason so much as WLS is viewed to be the lesser risk of two evils: People think WLS is a relatively safe procedure compared to the assumed health risks of not having WLS. Obesity is often bandied about as a major health risk, a surefire predictor of an early death, a threat to national security and the environment and a drain on the nation's economy. While WLS has risks and even a high death rate, it's seen as necessary because of the stereotypes society as a whole attribute to obesity. And also, the bariatric field has a lot of big guns and money backing it, like Johnson & Johnson, who are lobbying the government to have obesity declared a disease, which would pave the way for health insurance plans to be required to cover WLS. These are very powerful and influential corporations and people with endless supplies of wealth who make sure that the health risks and death rates of WLS are underscored and swept under the rug of our collective awareness.

As WLS is becoming more popular and as time passes, we're increasingly hearing about those people who've died from WLS and from those who've had to have WLS reversals because otherwise, they'd die. Stories like this one give me cause for optimism that the WLS bandwagon might not be derailed, but it may be forced to travel down less traveled paths.

levye August 25th, 2008 | Link | I take you

I take you, Paul, to be searching for another type of argument to level against WLS besides the health or scientific one. In this, I take you to be similar to those in the pro-Choice movement, who want to offer moral as well as scientific arguments in favor of their pro-Choice position. The problem is that so many people mean some absolute or universal moral principle, beyond what they call relativism, when they evoke morality. So, when Obama urges the two sides of the abortion issue to talk and begins by telling the pro-Choice people that they have to admit that abortion is a moral issue, he means one thing: abortion is a moral issue in a singular sense because it terminates the life of the fetus. Some abortion rights people try to counter that sort of argument by getting people to see abortion as a moral issue in terms of the woman's moral right to decide what to do with her body.

I agree with the idea that we need to argue in a variety of ways against WLS, which is a form of genocide against the fat, besides always having recourse to the rational discourse of science and health. I take an ethical discussion of the question to be an equally valid way to go. How does WLS affect self-accepting or defiant fatties, who want their lives to be dignified? Our attitutude toward such procedures could be akin to a queer person's attitude toward gay reparation procedures, including administering shocks to reprogram sexual orientation. Rather than arguing the practical or health point that they do not work, we can insist that they are dangerous to me (or to the fat generally) insofar as they insist my life is not worth living.

piratealice's picture
piratealice
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I can see your comparison,

I can see your comparison, and this morality legislation worries me. What's to stop doctors and pharmacists from deciding not to treat patients who have views they don't agree with? Oh, right that would be discrimination...how is this NOT discrimination? There is a procedure that is LEGAL that I need/want done, you are a doctor, it is your job. That's like having a butcher who's a vegetarian and he wont sell me meat because he's morally opposed to it.
What's to stop a pharmacist from dispensing birth control pills because he/she feels THAT is aborting a baby or maybe he might want to keep a patient from getting anti-depressants because he is morally opposed to chemically treating depression? Or, say this pharmacist knows these anti-depressants may cause weight gain, he sees me, a fat woman, walk in. Decides he's morally opposed to giving me the medication my doctor prescribed for me because he thinks I'm too fat already (even though he doesn't know my medical history) and decides NOT to give me my drug because he claims, morally he would feel responsible for making me fatter.
I think this legislation is leading us down a road we really don't want to be on, it's too dangerous. If I've discussed something with my doctor, the pharmacist shouldn't stand in the way of my health care. I can do a lot of research when choosing a doctor, but what kind of research can I do to find a pharmacist?

vesta44's picture
vesta44
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I think the reason that

I think the reason that there isn't more of a discussion on the morality of WLS is because fat people are seen as amoral when it comes to food/eating. There is so much mythinformation out there about fat and what causes it and the diseases it "causes". That mythinformation is believed by far too many people, so why should they care that WLS kills people, and causes many more problems than it's supposed to cure (not to mention that even WLS isn't a permanent way to stay thin forever for everyone who has it). As long as they believe it is doing "something" to end fat, those who believe the mythinformation could care less about the very real costs of WLS in terms of lives lost and quality of life not improving. What they don't realize is that those complications cost much more to treat than any disease the fat person might have gotten if they hadn't had WLS. And how many people who have had WLS, and ended up with those complications, have lost their insurance because treating their complications used up all their benefits? How many of those people have died from complications because they can no longer afford the treatment they need just to stay alive, even with a shitty quality of life? And if you had WLS and didn't stay thin for the rest of your life, it's not because WLS is a piss-poor tool, it's because you kept stuffing your face and sitting on your ass all day, you fat, gluttonous pig, you. Yeah, right, and anyone who thinks WLS is a magic bullet to get rid of fat forever, I have some bridges to sell you. So, yeah, I'm outraged that the media and the medical community keep pushing it. I think it should be a surgery of last resort, for those who truly would be dead in 5 years without it, but, until they can come up with a fool-proof way of knowing who those people are, keep your damned hands off functioning digestive systems and look to see why people got that fat in the first place, and quit blaming every problem a fat person has on their fat. Sometimes (most times), people get diseases, not because of being fat or thin or any other size in between, but just because shit happens.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

IggyGrrl's picture
IggyGrrl
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I don't know that I'd equate

I don't know that I'd equate arguing against WLS with arguing against (or for) legalized abortion; I don't find the two issues to be congruent, morally. Whichever side you are on, an abortion, by definition, irrefutably ends with the death of a living organism; WLS does not. And doctors have long been steering patients toward or away from treatments that they didn't believe in or did not want to endorse; I'm Catholic and I know several Catholic physicians who would no more perform an abortion than they would flap their arms and fly to the moon. They would not be involved in the lethal injection process for the same reason.

The fact that pharmacists are now trying to place their own judgement and morals above those of the doctors who prescribe the drugs is pretty scary, though, and I agree about that being a slippery slope. What if you get a Scientologist pharmacist who won't give anti-depressants or psychoactive drugs? The mind boggles, if you'll forgive an unintended pun.

I think many people see fat itself as immoral, because they view it as a result of poor self-control and laziness. There's a very large segment of the population who do not think extremely obese people should get disability payments, either, because their condition is viewed as having been self-inflicted. Doctors make a lot of money from WLS so they have a stake in seeing it continue. Companies like Johnson and Johnson have a large stake in keeping bad press about WLS away from the public. I find it very interesting that on "Big Medicine", although they are careful to show the psychological counseling undergone by prospective patients prior to the surgery, there isn't a lot of attention paid to patients who might have adverse experiences with the aftermath of the surgery.

And to be absolutely honest, there isn't that much information out there about the adverse effects of WLS. Once in awhile there will be something on Discovery Health about someone who had a bad ride with WLS but those shows are in the minority; much more often you see shows about happy thin people who got WLS and are now getting plastic surgery and wow, look, I can wear a bikini and we should all be happy now! My mother is a nurse and says she would never, ever recommend WLS because she's seen too many people come back in to the hospital afterward for more surgery, treatment for malnutrition, etc. but that information is not really out there. But as long as you have a society which elevates women like Pamela Anderson -- who has mutiliated herself to obtain grotesque, disproprtionate breasts -- to goddess status, you aren't going to find many people who will say they are outraged by WLS.

sarahj August 25th, 2008 | Link | "Whichever side you are on,

Whichever side you are on, an abortion, by definition, irrefutably ends with the death of a living organism; WLS does not.

One of the "side effects" of WLS is simply "death." Maybe not a high number, but people still die from the procedure.

There are also many life-long side effects to WLS, which will decrease the quality of life in the long run:

http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2007/01/junkfood-science-weekend-special.html

The problem is, you won't hear about this. WLS is generally seen as a life-saving procedure by physicians, where the "benefits" outweigh the "risks." Better to die trying to be thin than to die 60 years later of old age, but still have that death labeled as "obesity."

FatShepherdess's picture
FatShepherdess
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I think you have every right

I think you have every right to ask these questions ~ if you are pro-choice it sure does appear odd that abortion is a moral issue while WLS is not.

Perhaps the reason that there's legal backing from the US Government for pro-life docs/pharmasists to refuse to do something that goes against their beliefs is because we pro-lifers view abortion as baby-murder... while WLS is not viewed as the murder of a person?

And yet... WLS sure sounds like the murder of a person to me because how many people have died from the surgery??? If I was a surgeon and I read this post of yours I'd have to ask myself... "I'm pro-life. I denounce needless killing. WLS has resulted in the needless killing of human beings just because my society/culture discriminates against fat people. There is no justification for WLS other then cultural prejudice..."

As a pro-lifer myself, I think you're right about this. WLS is deffinately immoral from *my* religious perspective because it needlessly hurts/kills human beings soley for cosmetic purposes ~ and one of the seven deadly sins is vanity!! Our culture has become so caught up in the deadly sin of vanity that a certain portion of our race is being subjected to deadly drugs, diets, and WLS in order to make them acceptable to vain norms. These fellow human beings that are being badly hurt and also killed by WLS are, I believe, made in the likeness and image of God and therefore are *not* inferior just because they are fat! So no one has the right to say that fat people are "bad" and they are somehow "less then" thin people and thus must be made thin even at grave risk to their very lives. This is a sin against the fat person ~ and a sin agianst the God that created them! Fat people are just as valuable as thin people because they are beautiful creations of God and not some kind of ugly mistake that needs to be corrected by WLS.

I know that someone could argue that another of the seven deadly sins is gluttony ~ but I don't believe that all fat people are gluttons of food. And besides, even if a certain fat person *is* a glutton of food, who the heck are the rest of us to sin by treating our fellow human being like crap?? Sure, we can warn them that they might be putting their health at risk but we don't have the right to abuse them or hate them because we are not perfect and sinless ourselves! We don't have to support their behavior but we cannot abuse that person.

When a fat person is lied to so that they are lead to believe that they have to have potentially deadly WLS in order to "save" their life...and make the surgeon several thousand $$ richer... that's someone commting a massive sin against the fat person and the God that created them! I'd say that this is quite similar to the pro-life view of abortion: to kill the baby is to commit a massive sin against the baby and the God that created them. WLS... abortion... I can see the connections.

Anyhoo, that's my thoughts on the subject. Cheers!

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." ~Mother Teresa

IggyGrrl's picture
IggyGrrl
August 25th, 2008 | Link | One of the "side effects" of

One of the "side effects" of WLS is simply "death." Maybe not a high number, but people still die from the procedure.

BUT -- it is not a foregone conclusion that someone WILL die as a result of WLS. It IS a foregone conclusion that someone (or something, depending on which side you want to argue) WILL die as a result of abortion. The "side effect" of pretty much any surgery you care to name could be death; you could react to the anesthesia, you could develop respiratory problems, you could develop life-threatening infections. I have a friend who has undergone six different surgeries and several hospitalizations due to complications from a boob job, for God's sake. The purpose of WLS is not to end a life, whereas the purpose of an abortion IS to end some kind of life.

I understand what you are saying about the possible side effects of WLS and the immorality of the medical establishment trying to push a potentially harmful surgery on a person whose only "crime" is that they are heavier than some unreasonable ideal. But I still do not see where it equates with abortion.

sarahj August 25th, 2008 | Link | I'm not comparing WLS to

I'm not comparing WLS to abortion here. I am simply stating that WLS has side effects and consequences that outweigh the "benefits" of the surgery. ANY type of surgery is a big risk, but WLS is an unnecessary one.

I'm a little touchy on the topic, because I've had two close family member outright yell at me over the weekend because I refuse to consider WLS for my 300 pounds.

moxie3's picture
moxie3
August 25th, 2008 | Link | WLS surgery

I don't know who we can exactly blame for the WLS explosion we have now. I only see WLS growing and as I've stated in an earlier post unless there are major complications that result in many malpractice lawsuits I doubt things will change due to our society's view on fat. It's a consumer driven field. There are about 5 or 6 different weight loss surgeries that are performed now. From the less intrusive but still risky lap band to the more extreme duodenal switch, which I considered for a 24 hour period due to a lapse in judgment. And as I stated once before the average person who does not do well with one surgery will then proceed with a revision surgery. This is why I stand out as an oddball because I am getting my band removed but have chosen not to revise. "You mean you want to be fat"? Well I guess I do.

My perspective is from an actual WLS forum and everyday I see more and more people joining in the WLS forums as "newbies" and it's like being a kid in a candy store, bad analogy, don't know how else to explain the excitement they all have as "newbies". I believe a lot of you would be in shock. I didn't join a WLS forum until I was about 7 months post-op and was trying to figure out what was wrong with me as I gained back all my weight. But there are people that are joining these WLS forums a year prior to surgery, waiting for insurance approval etc... and those not covered by insurance will fly to Mexico to have these performed and a much cheaper "cost". Naturally the surgeons advertise all over the forums. I have my pulse there still, although not a favored poster but it's a pretty good place to get an idea of how much WLS has ballooned in a short period of time, moxie3.

pjrichardson's picture
pjrichardson
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I strongly believe in "my

I strongly believe in "my body, my choice." That means it is *my* decision about whether or not to get an abortion, and it is further *my* choice whether or not to perform an abortion. Let us not forget the flip side of forcing physicians to perform procedures they find morally repugnant - forcing medical/surgical procedures on PATIENTS who find them morally repugnant. It sounds like the UK may be mere inches from this horrifying reality, and the US seems prepared to follow suit, beginning with financially punishing people of size. (This is the latest assault: Extra pounds mean insurance fees for Ala. workers)

I believe in choice across the board, and I would never demand that anyone offering a service be forced to accommodate my issues, whether it is an abortion I demand, a smoke-free environment, or sturdy, wide, armless seating. If a service provider does not fulfill my requirements, then I will go elsewhere. "Keep your laws off my body" encompasses so much more than my uterus. At the very least, it includes my hands as well.

bootness's picture
bootness
August 25th, 2008 | Link | Aside from the abortion

Aside from the abortion comparision, I believe that WLS should be considered a moral issue. The oath: first, do no harm. You take a functioning human organ, and you mutilate it in order to make it function less efficiently. That is pretty much an oath broken right there: a huge lie. Daily I see commercials making it look like it's as easy as getting your ears pierced. Morally, I am outraged. How dare they advertise this possibly fatal, definitely invasive and unnecessary, surgery? Making it seem like all of your problems will be solved? Another big lie. It might not be outright murder, but if it causes death it's at least as wrong as criminally negligent homicide. And if you survive, I could see it as assault at least.

FatKimmie August 25th, 2008 | Link | Many in our society believe

Many in our society believe that they would be better off dead than fat as well - themselves if they are overweight - or any of us that are overweight. I cannot even begin to catalog the number of times well meaning people, complete strangers, have approached me to advise me of my medical needs in department stores, church, restaurants, gas stations, bathrooms, you name it -- they all feel as though it is their God given duty to inform me of how and when I'm going to die given that I am so GROSSLY fat in their eyes.

There is an acceptable level of obesity in this society -- about a size 18/20 -- and once you surpass that, people feel free to have at you at any moment with their diet advice, their surgery advice, their glares, their staring undisciplined pointing children, their own horrified looks, all of it. Being in the "unacceptable" range of obesity, I experience this constantly.

As for WLS specifically, I receive incredible pressure from every physician or nurse I encounter, whether they happen to be hampered by the actual care of me or not, to proceed immediately with WLS, whether I think it's a good idea or not because SURELY I am going to drop dead at any second.

I have found that for myself, I need a pat, rote answer in the back of my mind at all times -- it generally goes something like this -- "You have absolutely no knowledge of me or my medical condition, my life, my history, my dreams; so, rather than take your advice, I would like to offer you some. Tend to your own house before you start tearing down mine. You may believe that WLS is the end all and be all; however, I have decided that there are worse things than being fat -- with dead pretty much being #1 on the list. Have a nice day."

This is not to say that it still does not infuriate me every time it happens - it does -- not only infuriates me, but hurts my feelings -- where do people get off basically telling me that I'm not okay just the way I am after all? I've worked mighty damn hard to get to that point in my psyche!

moxie3's picture
moxie3
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I've never had complete

I've never had complete strangers come up to me and suggest I lose weight but I believe one of the last episodes of a friend/ex-neighbor was about 8 years ago and she and I went to the mall and had lunch and she began to ask me why I didn't do anything to lose weight and that she was a diabetic and was on the diabetic diet and just lost blah blah blah pounds, I don't know if it was the "ex-smoker" mentality in her or what but I'm a pretty sensitive person and this is not the first time this has happened and instead of getting angry I turn it inside and get really down on myself.

When I was 16 about 2 years after my mother had died I was at my middle brother's wedding reception when I was approached by my mother's brother, my grandfather, and a "friend" of my brother's and my uncle started off attacking me as they all had drinks in their hands by saying "when are you ever going to lose weight?" And they were all like grumbling behind him agreeing. I was 16 and pretty much helpless and hopeless and ran off bawling and trying to find the courage to tell my father what his brother-in-law and his father and a friend and just approached me with. It was probably one of the most crushing moments of my life. I felt so much shame over my entire life about my fat, double that I was a bed wetter until I was 18!

So put those together with many more episodes over my 48 years and with my personality type it's no wonder I felt pressure to diet and fail and eventually have WLS and failed at that too! I don't know why I felt like putting that out there and I'm sure we all have similar tales to tell, moxie3

JennyLinsky August 27th, 2008 | Link | @moxie3

*HUGS*

Viola's picture
Viola
August 25th, 2008 | Link | I've always put the HAES

I've always put the HAES movement in with other alternative ways of thinking, but I'm always surprised when those who embrace certain alternative health or parenting ideals don't extend their beliefs to the size acceptance movement. There are those who are convinced that vaccines are dangerous, don't work, and only an unintelligent person would go ahead and blindly vaccinate their children just on the medical establishment's say so. Yet these same people will spout the mainstream ideas about weight loss, fat and health. That's the thing that always floors me. At various times, people have told me me I am killing myself by being fat and I respond by saying that the mainstream says they are risking their children's lives by not immunizing, but the point is we do the research and make our decisions and that's what I've done. I never get a response, I never change anyone's attitude. People know, deep in their hearts, that being fat is just wrong, so it doesn't matter if there is evidence to the contrary.

I don't necessarily see the parallels between abortion and WLS, mostly because those who are truly against abortion and also against birth control often seem to have a belief about God and a person's control over her body that goes far beyond what the mainstream would embrace; the ideology seems different. Thinking about it further, however, I do see some similarties, just in the sense that some people who are OK with abortion, may only find it acceptable in certain circumstances, and be criticial of someone making that choice otherwise. Likewise, some think that WLS is taking the easy way out, and feel similarly judgmental. Then there are those who would advocate abortion in certain situations where they would deem having a child unacceptable, and may be critical of someone choosing to have a baby. That would be similar to those who judge fat people for not losing weight, and being critical and saying they are killing themselves, applaud those who have the surgery as doing something courageous--I've seen the same sort of thing with abortion.

Moody Blue's picture
Moody Blue
August 25th, 2008 | Link | It's a sticky issue. I know

It's a sticky issue. I know those who are against abortion who don't think twice about us going to war knowing full well that innocent living children and adults will be murdered in the process. They also seem to think the fetus is more important than the life of someone on death row. I don' t think you can call yourself pro-life and be pro-capital punishment or pro-war. Didn't mean to hi-jack the thread. I just wanted to clarify some things. Thanks for listening.

AnnieMcPhee's picture
AnnieMcPhee
August 25th, 2008 | Link | It's really not logically

It's really not logically inconsistent to be against abortion but in favor of capital punishment. I don't generally argue about either of them much, but believe me, the two positions are not mutually exclusive at all.

As to the OP questions, they're excellent, but I don't have real answers to them. I'm outraged by WLS and believe it violates the Hippocratic Oath as well, but short of educating the whole world about the realities of it (and that's probably going to take a whole lot more dead people - the public at large isn't listening to us) there isn't much that can be done. And it's people's right to do it if they really want to mutilate themselves or band themselves into untenable positions. All I can do is keep speaking out against it and talking about what it does - what good that will do? Probably none.

lilacsigil August 25th, 2008 | Link | Doctors, Pharmacists and choice

If you are a doctor or pharmacist that refuses to provide a legal service, you should work in a different part of your profession - there are vast numbers of medical positions where this issue will never come up. Geriatrics, in particular, is desperate for medical staff, but maybe that's not as glamorous as refusing young women the right to control their own bodies. There's no reason to put yourself in the position that Bush is trying to defend unless you're making a Big Moral Statement and trying to control the lives of women. (Yes, I am in the medical industry, so I am speaking with some knowledge here!)

As for WLS, I think that rachelr is spot on - no matter how dangerous and unsuccessful WLS might be, it's always going to be seen as far less evil than being fat. My girlfriend went to the doctor (for non-weight-related reasons) and, because she wanted to check her blood pressure, mentioned that she had lost a large amount of weight through healthy eating and exercise, though she would still be classed as obese, despite her fitness level. The doctor immediately brought up WLS as a good option!

TigerHawk310 August 25th, 2008 | Link | The thing about abortion is

The thing about abortion is that it's a "first principles" issue--there's no way of turning the abortion debate into one of policy. It's intended to kill a developing fetus; if that fetus is a human being endowed with rights, then it's immoral and should be illegal. If the fetus isn't a human being endowed with rights, then there's nothing morally wrong with an abortion and the woman should have the right to choose.

WLS isn't like that; it's not intended to kill, and there's no real first principles, life or death issue on the table. There's room for a moral debate, but it's never going to get to the level of "should it be legal", because the answer is always going to be "yes". People should have the right to do whatever they want to themselves as long as it doesn't harm others.

But, there are moral qualities to the argument. It's immoral for doctors and medical corporations to promote WLS without a full disclosure of likely side effects, including death. It's immoral for doctors and medical corporations to lie to prospective patients about likely results. As an elective surgery (i.e., in the vast majority of cases), it probably violates the Hippocratic Oath, as would clitoridectomies, foot binding, and other dangerous and harmful medical procedures done for purely cosmetic reasons.

Outrage at the procedure itself? Never going to happen. But we can, and we should, work on getting the public outraged at the industry that promotes WLS. I recommend comparing them to the tobacco companies that promoted the "health benefits" of cigarette smoking.

Bilt4Cmfrt's picture
Bilt4Cmfrt
August 26th, 2008 | Link | I don't know how good of an

I don't know how good of an analogy this makes. On the one side you have religious conviction vs. individual rights. On the other you have. . . What? Ethical medicine vs. public naiveté / exploitation? Leaving out the arguments of life and death and, looking at the two arguments from a supply and demand viewpoint, I suppose one could say the WLS bears some similarities to pre- Roe v. Wade abortion. The severe social stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock or at a young age could be analogous . Pre-R/W, ones choices where limited to giving the child up for adoption (A lot of questions, a lot of records and no guarantee that any stigma would be left behind), leaving the child where someone might find it, or leaving it where no one would find it. Unfortunately dumpster babies are not news. Western history from before the Dark Ages on, is peppered with references to certain midwives who could be paid or persuaded to 'get rid of ' a newborn. Usually by taking it down the river. However, from a certain, callus point of view this could be seen as the old Calories in / Calories out argument. Make the decision, commit to it and the problem gets solved. Simple.

The only other option was a 'backroom' abortion. Risky, potentially life threatening or, with possible permanent complications, life altering. Yet people went in for these procedures anyway. Sound familiar? As for the Dr's (Nurses / Vets / Quacks) who preformed the procedures, I'm sure some where motivated by the desire to 'do good' by people who had few, if any, options. Just as I'm sure that many more where motivate by monetary gain.

With WLS the cult like, drink-of-our-kool-aid, glee so readily found in a lot of it's adherents isn't just isolated to the patients. I can't imagine working in or around that kind of thing and not having it effect you. But, when one is a Doctor, one need not be a 'True Believer' to be convinced of the righteousness of ones own deeds. Self Righteousness is almost a prerequisite for graduation from most medical schools.

From where I stand the moral quandaries that surround abortion are too tightly entangled to separate from the reasons people choose to have them or want to have them banned. The ONE thing that's changed is that, these days, those reasons rarely involve any kind of, wide spread, social stigma. Pro or Con. While with WLS the stigma of being fat in todays society can effect a person socially, professionally, financially, and mentally. It's the medical community who bares the responsibility of asking 'Should we be doing this?' however, they seem to be far to busy making money and basking in glory to notice any problems. Meanwhile my, and many other peoples, attitudes toward medicine and the medical community has changed, and not for the better. As far as WLS is concerned, I find myself 1) outraged at their apparent lack of willingness to inform or advise, 2) disgusted by their, willful, greed induced blindness, and 3) enraged by their cavalier disregard of the 'failures' that fall by the wayside. They seem to have little to no interest in finding out why there are failures, what those failures might mean, or even (perhaps ESPECIALLY) how many there really are out there. With WLS the only thing that really matters is Weight loss. Full Stop. Once those ends are met, the means and any unanticipated consequences may be deemed irrelevant. One might think that medicine has come to a seriously scary place when an 'Ends justify the Means' philosophy holds sway but when so many people are stampeding towards the clinic doors like lepers to the snake-oil salesman's wagon, it's kinda hard to be heard above the din.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you.
Then you win.
- Mahatma Ghandi

FatShepherdess's picture
FatShepherdess
August 26th, 2008 | Link | "With WLS the cult like,

"With WLS the cult like, drink-of-our-kool-aid, glee..."

SO true!! I totally agree!!

As a Catholic (identity politics alert!!) I still totally see the morality connection between WLS/Abortion ~ First of all, you have, "Thou shalt not lie." As a Catholic, I believe that the fetus *is* human and thus when an abortionist says, "This is not a human so it's ok to kill it..." there's a broken commandment. The same thing goes with WLS when the surgeon outright LIES about the risks of the proceedure as well as lies about the false *need* to have WLS in order to save a life that is *not* in danger ~ and this lie is based on money making and vanity. "No one can serve two gods..." In my Catholic eyes I see the WLS surgeon serving the god MONEY rather then the God that created the human being that they are about to harm... I also see the society/culture that pressures fat folk into WLS to be worshipping the god VANITY instead of the God that created that beautiful human being ~ both of which are big no-no's within my religious box.

Then you have, "Thou shalt not kill..." As a Catholic I believe abortion = murder and that WLS = a surgeon being willing to kill someone in order to make $$$. I mean, come ON! How many of these surgeons are totally ignorant of the very real dangers of WLS **and** how WLS *has* killed patients AND the fact that WLS is just one big fat lie to begin with??? How is the WLS surgeon obeying the commandment to, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" when he or she is lying to their neighbor and then leading them to deffinate harm and even possible death because of that lie?

As a Catholic (I only keep repeating this so you know I'm thinking within a box and not judging non-Catholics, pro-choicers etc...) God judges me by the way that I treat my fellow human beings and my actions impact my salvation. To lie, gossip, cause harm, kill, etc is to commit a SIN. To look upon a human being ~ a creation of God! ~ and treat them as inferior based on age, race, religion, gender, SIZE... is a total sin! It's a big no-no ... and so this whole WLS crappola is one big sin against fat people and God in my eyes because it's a lie and it places fat people in danger for money and vanity ~ not cool!

If you are not operating within a religious box, I can see how some folk would not agree with anything that I have said. Like I stated, this post is coming from my perspective as a Catholic ~ and as a Catholic, the way I treat my fellow beings is held against me as either a blessing to that person, and thus God, or a sin against that person, and thus a sin against God. Fat prejudice, WLS... these things do not pass the, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" test. Therefore, I see WLS as immoral.

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." ~Mother Teresa

Bree's picture
Bree
August 26th, 2008 | Link | In my humble opinion,

In my humble opinion, there's two major factors: image and choice.

In our appearance-obsessed society, those who speak out and protest against WLS would probably be seen as a joke because, using anti-FA and troll logic here, they are promoting and encouraging obesity. The majority see fat people and think out-of-control, unattractive lazy sloths. The majority see pictures of babies and developing fetuses and think beautiful, innocent human beings. In going along with the image angle, WLS is heralded as "the answer" to getting smaller at any cost by those in the medical community. Decreasing size, becoming socially acceptable, and physically trumps health complications that result from the surgery.

As for choice, the majority thinks fat people don't deserve to have people fight for their rights to live because we choose to be fat; whereas babies and developing fetuses can't think for themselves, they deserve to have people fight for their rights because they can't make choices yet.

BabySeal August 27th, 2008 | Link | Bree, I think you hit the

Bree, I think you hit the nail on the head!

JennyLinsky August 27th, 2008 | Link | This is America. We have

This is America. We have freedom of choice - including the choice, Gods forbid, to have WLS.

Government should not be in the business of protecting adults from their own stupidity. If you are a surgeon and don't believe that a certain surgical procedure should not be performed and your patient is a mentally competent adult, you can sit them down and explain the disadvantages of said procedure to them. You can even insist that they see a psychiatrist AND get a second opinion before the procedure.

However, adults should not be barred from getting anything done that they can afford to have done. Yes, this includes those folks who want to get healthy limbs removed.

We are big boys and girls, folks. We have better sense than to choose WLS (or we would not choose it again). We should let others have freedom of choice, too.

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
August 28th, 2008 | Link | Refusing to perform WLS (as

Refusing to perform WLS (as a surgeon) is not the same as denying it to patients that want it.

hatch_xanadu August 28th, 2008 | Link | As I understand it, the

As I understand it, the majority of physicians in a position to perform WLS *specialize* in the procedure. They often operate out of clinics that advertise WLS as their Thing, and so presumably don't find it morally objectionable. A patient turned away by, say, a family doctor who simply says "We don't do those kinds of procedures" will no doubt find another avenue -- and an 800 number -- on the seas of billboards and magazine ads directing them to clinics who are quite happy to carve them up in the name of a "healthy lifestyle".

Rosa September 2nd, 2008 | Link | I am angry about WLS

...but who am I going to be angry at? It's not like my level of outrage at the general weight loss industry is going to go up any higher, or that people are going to listen any more.

My mom had her stomach stapled in the mid-80s and for a chunk of my childhood, almost every adult woman I knew was one of her (doctor-sponsored) WLS support group/exercise group friends. I think 2 of them kept the weight off. My mom was one of them.

She credits the surgery with turning her life around, ending her depression, getting her back into the workforce after 10 years as a SAHM. It looks to me like it was the support groups and getting out into the world through WLS-themed social events that did it, but it's her life story, not mine.

If people ask me what I think of them getting surgery, I tell them the death and disability risks. I mention real people I've known (shirt tail relatives, coworkers) who were incapacitated by surgical side effects. For people paying out of pocket, I suggest that a six week vacation at a spa would cost the same, have the same chance of permanent weight loss, and definitely not kill them... no one has ever listened.

WLS is a symptom, not a cause. People in our culture would rather be dead than fat. I have a close family friend who continued to use Fen-Phen long after the risk of death was established. I've known dozens of young women who used dangerous methods of weight control, including over-exercise, off-label adderall, cigarettes. We should be forcing full disclosure and prosecuting fraudulent advertisements, as we would with *any* quack medicine. But we have to change the whole culture before people will stop killing themselves to be thin.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

© 2000-2019 Big Fat Blog and its authors, all rights reserved. Big Fat Blog, Big Fat Facts, and Big Fat Index are our trademarks.