Fourteen of 105 obstetrics-gynecology practices surveyed by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last month said they will not take on obese women as patients.
Representatives of six of the practices cited higher rates of complications in women who are obese, but other respondents said heavier women tax their exam tables and other equipment.
"People don't realize the risk we're taking by taking care of these patients," the paper quoted Dr. Albert Triana as saying. Dr. Triana is one of two physicians in a South Miami practice that turns away obese patients, according to the article. "There's more risk of something going wrong and more risk of getting sued."
Seventy-two million Americans — about one in three — meet the criteria for obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
"If I had that policy, I wouldn't have a practice. I'd lose half my patients," Dr. Maureen Whelihan, a West Palm Beach ob-gyn, told the Sun-Sentinel's Bob LaMendiola. "We never turn down anyone."
In a followup article in American Medical News, reporter Christine S. Moyer asked doctors to comment on the practice of turning patients away because of their weight.
"This is [primary care physicians'] patient population, and [they're] here to serve the patients," said one of them, Dr. David Bryman, a Phoenix family physician specializing in bariatric medicine, which deals with the causes, treatment and prevention of obesity. Dr. Bryman is president-elect of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. "If that requires getting a little extra equipment to accommodate them, it's just part of the practice of medicine."