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Surprising Science

A Doctor Wants To Punish Fat People

Delos M. Cosgrove, a heart surgeon, told the New York Times he’d stop hiring obese people if he could because being overweight is a “disease.”

Delos M. Cosgrove, a heart surgeon and the chief executive at the Cleveland Clinic, told the New York Time’s Sunday magazine published August 16, 2009 that if he had the choice he would not hire overweight people because obesity is a “disease.” Well, the good doctor is over simplifying matters. I know overweight people who can do plenty of pushups, play sports, work hard, and don’t need to go to the doctor very often. I’ve been about 40 pounds overweight for more than twenty years. I’ve never spent a day in the hospital in my life, I don’t take any medicines, I walk between three and four miles a day in 110 to 115 degree heat in the summer without a water bottle. I don’t have aches or pains. And there are a lot of overweight people like me. However, overweight people are the medical profession’s favorite whipping boys these days because there is tons money in trying to get people to slim down. Fat people have lived pretty well throughout history, before medicine became big business. And why doesn’t the good doctor propose that people who drink booze not be hired (one hundred billion dollars a year is spent on booze) or people who take drugs (an estimated 2.8 million people a year are chronic cocaine users) not be hired, or the hundreds of thousands of people that spend $5.4 billion a year on meth. Naw! Don’t mention the drugs. And I know a lot of skinny guys that have lousy diets and abuse their health by taking in activities that result in injuries that require long term care. What about athletes who smash their bodies and then spend the rest of their lives in doctor’s offices? Should they be kept kept out of the job market? What about skinny people who don’t eat right and get sick or suffer years from cancer before dying? Why is the conversation about poor eating habits mostly confined to overweight people? Skinny people can and do ruin their health by not eating right. Why not include them in the conversation? And are we going to investigate all the drug takers and other people who abuse their health so they can be kept off the job? They pose more of a threat to society than overweight people. Overweight people are easy to spot and target and the good doctor wants to leave the impression that he is really on top of things. And anyone who believes the medical profession’s statistics must also believe the profession never overcharges or performs unnecessary procedures on patients. The health costs problems are far deeper than overweight people and, by the way, who can adequately define what is overweight for every individual? The medical profession frequently screws up its diagnosis… I’m not afraid of being overweight. I’ve lived quite well with that “disease.” What I’m afraid of is when I eventually have to go to the hospital I’ll end of as one of those 150,000 a year unlucky souls who died because of mistakes by the hospital staff. I’ll be afraid that I’ll be given medicine with severe side effects that will destroy my liver, cause a stroke or give me a heart attack. I’ll be afraid the doctor won’t get it right and I’ll die on the operating table or from complications “following surgery.” And my biggest nightmare is that somehow I’ll end up at the Cleveland Clinic and be operated on by a surgeon who believes I’m an inferior person for being overweight who doesn’t deserve to have a job. A chapter in my book “Invisible Money” is called “Health Care: It Makes Me Sick.” I should have added “And it Also Makes Me Scared As Hell.”  


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