Bias against overweight patients could lead to missed diagnosis

Almost 75% of the population in the United States is overweight or obese. Despite this number, many medical professionals have a bias against overweight and obese people which could lead to a missed or misdiagnosis.

What can patients do to protect themselves?

Bias against overweight and obese patients

According to research, many medical professionals do not take the concerns of overweight and obese patients seriously. This sometimes leads to doctors failing to order tests or dismissing symptoms that they would otherwise investigate in a thinner patient. Experts blame this tendency on an anti-fat bias caused by a lack of empathy or training.

Countering anti-fat bias

The Association of American Medical Colleges is attempting to better educate medical professionals through new equity, diversity and inclusion standards. These standards include teaching doctors to treat overweight and obese patients with respect.

What patients can do to protect themselves

If you believe your doctor is ignoring your symptoms or incorrectly blaming them on your weight there are steps you can take:

  • Ask your doctor questions, such as “What could cause this?” and “What should I do if my symptoms get worse?”
  • Get a second opinion. Ask for a referral to a specialist or schedule an appointment with a different doctor.
  • Research the types of tests that are usually done for your symptoms and if your doctor refuses to order them, go to another doctor.

Overweight and obese people frequently experience bias in the medical community. When doctors fail to properly diagnose medical conditions because of this bias, it can have serious consequences for patients. Patients must become their own advocates to avoid potential missed and misdiagnoses.

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