How “Fat Shaming” Can Contribute To Medical Malpractice

“The bottom half of my lung was dead. It was black. I had a rotting piece of tissue inside of me for who knows how long,” writes Rebecca Hiles in an emotional blog post about her cancer journey.

After spending years of his life unable to move, a Mississippi man underwent surgery to remove a 130 pounds tumor.

Why didn’t these people receive help right away? The answer is simple, but incredibly shocking and disheartening: their doctors blamed their serious medical conditions on their weight.

What Is Fat Shaming?

Hiles was told that her persistent and bloody cough would get better if she just lost weight. Roger Logan, the man with the tumor, was turned away from treatment as doctors insisted he was just fat. Outside the medical world, when someone faces mockery or criticism for their weight, it is called fat shaming. But as these cases show, fat shaming exists within the medical sphere, too — and with incredibly serious results.

When a health care professional misdiagnoses or negligently ignores a medical condition, it is a failure to diagnose. While seemingly not as severe as a surgical error or an erroneous administration of medication, failure to diagnose is still a type of medical malpractice.

Fat Shaming and Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, through failure to diagnose or otherwise, occurs when:

  • A doctor-patient relationship is established. When this relationship is established, a patient can assume that the doctor will treat them to the best of their ability. They expect their doctor to be professional, knowledgeable, and reasonable.
  • The doctor breaks or breaches that established duty to help the patient to the best of their ability
  • The patient suffers harm as a result of the breach
  • The patient’s harm is a direct result of the doctor’s breach of duty

By these standards, then, dismissing a patient’s health concerns simply because they are overweight is most certainly a form of medical malpractice. When a patient is sick or suffering, their doctor’s duty is to help them, and in the cases of Hiles and Logan, that clearly did not happen. While fat shaming is a prominent cause, other reasons for a doctor misdiagnosing a patient might include the patient’s age, previous health conditions, or drug and alcohol use, among many other things.

It’s time to start recognizing that fat shaming in the medical field is not acceptable. All patients, regardless of weight, appearance, health, or circumstance deserve the absolute best care for their ailments. When they receive anything less, it’s a potential form of medical malpractice. It needs to be addressed as such.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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