ABSTRACT: Rates of obesity in the United States have increased rapidly over the past several decades, and physicians should be prepared to care for obese patients in a nonjudgmental manner, being cognizant of the medical, social, and ethical implications of obesity. It is the responsibility of the physician to recognize the medical risks that are associated with obesity and to counsel the patient regarding these risks in an unbiased manner, respecting her autonomy and maintaining her dignity. Classifying obesity as a medical condition can serve to reduce bias toward obese patients and to change the approach toward the patient from one of blame to one of caring. It is unethical for physicians to refuse to accept a patient or decline to continue care that is within their scope of practice solely because the patient is obese. However, if physicians lack the resources necessary for the safe and effective care of the obese patient, consultation or referral or both are appropriate. Obesity education that focuses on the specific medical, cultural, and social issues of the obese woman should be incorporated into physician education at all levels.
Committee on Ethics
This Committee Opinion was developed by the Committee on Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a service to its members and other practicing clinicians. Although this document reflects the current viewpoint of the College, it is not intended to dictate an exclusive course of action in all cases. This Committee Opinion was approved by the Committee on Ethics and the Executive Board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Copyright June 2014 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 409 12th Street, SW, PO Box 96920, Washington, DC 20090-6920. All rights reserved.
Ethical issues in the care of the obese woman. Committee Opinion No. 600. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2014;123:1388–93.