Cartoon: Doctors and Fat Patients


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If you hang out for any time among the “fat acceptance” crowd, you’re going to hear the same thing again and again: Fat people talking about going to doctors who refuse to treat what’s wrong, or fail to even diagnose what’s wrong, because they can’t see anything but the fat.

Quoting a story from The New York Times:

Part of the problem, both patients and doctors say, is a reluctance to look beyond a fat person’s weight. Patty Nece, 58, of Alexandria, Va., went to an orthopedist because her hip was aching. She had lost nearly 70 pounds and, although she still had a way to go, was feeling good about herself. Until she saw the doctor.

“He came to the door of the exam room, and I started to tell him my symptoms,” Ms. Nece said. “He said: ‘Let me cut to the chase. You need to lose weight.’”

The doctor, she said, never examined her. But he made a diagnosis, “obesity pain,” and relayed it to her internist. In fact, she later learned, she had progressive scoliosis, a condition not caused by obesity.

My comic strip is silly in its approach, but it’s a serious problem, and one that can make fat people reluctant to visit doctors even for urgently needed health care. And even if we do go, if we wind up with a doctor who only sees the fat, we may not even get the care we need.

For this cartoon, I drew closer to normal human proportions on the figures than I’ve usually been drawing lately. Or, as I privately think of it, drawing “Calvin’s parents proportions” versus “Calvin proportions.” The reason for going “Calvin’s parents” in this strip is pretty simple; it’s sort of hard to make characters clearly thin or fat when drawing those huge-head-tiny-bodies figures.

Over the years, I’ve found that comic strips about discrimination against fat people are the least likely to be accepted by editors or picked up for reprints. So this is definitely a strip that I couldn’t be paid to do if not for my Patreon. Some of the things the internet makes possible are really cool.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1
The panel shows a doctor, with thick-framed glasses, neat shoulder-length white hair, and holding a clipboard, in an examining room talking to a patient. The patient is wearing striped pants and a square-collar short sleeved blouse, and has her dark hair in a bun. The patient is sitting on one of those patient examination tables they have in doctors’ offices.

The patient is using her right hand to hold out her left arm, which is not connected to her body, to show it to the doctor.

Important: The doctor is thin, the patient is fat.

The doctor is calm; the patient is also calm, but also concerned.

DOCTOR: Hi, I’m doctor Douglas. What seems to be the problem?
PATIENT: I woke up this morning and my arm had fallen off.

PANEL 2
The doctor, still speaking calmly, is looking down at the patient’s body. The patient, still holding her detached left arm in her right hand, looks a bit annoyed.

DOCTOR: Hmmmm…. First thing, let’s get you on a diet.
PATIENT: A diet? To reconnect my arm?

PANEL 3
A shot from behind the doctor, looking over the doctor’s photo at the patient. The patient is now quite angry, raising her voice.

DOCTOR: Your weight is the real issue here… How many times a day do you eat fast food?
PATIENT: I’M HERE ABOUT MY ARM!

PANEL 4
The doctor, now alone, sits at a desk in an office (desk lamp, degree on wall, books on a shelf). The doctor is typing on a laptop, and looks peeved. Above her, we see words in the air showing what she’s typing.

DOCTOR (writing on laptop): “Patient was uncooperative…”

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat. Bookmark the permalink. 

6 Responses to Cartoon: Doctors and Fat Patients

  1. 1
    Kate says:

    Dances with Fat has a really good piece about how to deal with doctors who do this.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for the link! I posted the link as a reply to the cartoon on Twitter.

  3. 3
    c u n d gulag says:

    I’m overweight.

    I can’t tell you how many doctors who outweigh me, told me I need to lose weight.
    “OK, Doc. You first!!!”

    Oy…

  4. 4
    Vk1892 says:

    You might like this bmj article by a friend of mine: https://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.g6845

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    And they’re basing their attitudes on bad science.

    A spectacular case of sloppy science came crashing to a close last month. Cornell University’s Brian Wansink, a world-renowned scientist who seized headlines with his research on American eating habits, had many of his papers retracted and resigned from his professorship. Wansink’s fall is not just the tale of a single scientist gone astray. It is, instead, an indictment of an entire type of nutrition science that has led to mistaken dietary advice dispensed to Americans for decades.

  6. 6
    Ben David says:

    I really liked the BMJ article linked above!
    In both the US and in Israel, male colleagues who are emigres remarked that the local doctors often mention circumcision – after decades of benign neglect “in the old country”.

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