Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Is Canadian Obesity Network Really OK Killing 15 of Every 1,000 Fat People?

Tank is concernedI’m sure that the folks (or at least some of the folks) at the Canadian Obesity Network are well-meaning and well-intentioned but wow are they doing some messed up things.

First of all, they are pushing “person first” language.  It is a terrible idea for many reasons that we talked about at length here.

They also link to the “Obesity Action Coalition” (a complete nightmare of an organization) as a resource, which creates immediate mistrust for me.

They are co-opting the language of Fat Activism and Health at Every Size in their “anti-discrimination” work, while still working to eradicate fat people.

But the most egregious thing I’ve seen so far was on their Facebook page:

canadian-obesity-network-con

The Facebook conversation above resulted from a post on CONs Facebook page that asked people to talk about their weight loss surgery.

Brilliant activist Marilyn Wann pointed out:

The people who are killed by stomach amputation won’t really be able to tell their stories, will they? Fat people deserve safe, effective, weight-neutral treatment for our medical concerns, not deadly attempts at eugenics.

And can I just say “Hell yeah, Marilyn Wann!”  In response CON posted:

Actually very few people are “killed” by bariatric surgery – less than 15 out if a [sic] 1,000 who have the surgery – read the article! The author is a surgeon who himself had the surgery. [Editor’s note:  It’s the least of the problems with this, but I did read the article and the author is a woman who is not a surgeon and did not have the surgery. WTF CON?]

So is the Canadian Obesity Network really ok with killing nearly 15 out of every 1,000 fat people (and letting many others live their lives in literal agony with horrific long-term side effects)?  Do they really think it’s reasonable to kill almost 15 out of every 1,000 fat people in an effort to prevent or cure health issues that can have weight-neutral treatments that don’t include a nearly 1.5 in 100 chance of dying?  After all, thin people get the same illnesses as fat people and they are given evidence-based health interventions, not prescriptions and surgeries for body size manipulation.

I don’t get surprised by fatphobia a lot anymore, but even I’m shocked at how flippant this CON representative (a representative of a group that is supposed to be all about supporting fat people) is about killing nearly 15 out of every 1,000 of us, and describing that number as “very few.” Especially considering how the people who profit highly from these surgeries are constantly trying to expand the pool of people recommended for the procedure (often through the lobbying of organizations like the Canadian Obesity Network.)

On their website they claim that “six million Canadians living with obesity may require immediate support in managing and controlling their weight.”  If half of those Canadians turned to stomach amputation, then their surgeons would kill about 45,000 of them.  And CON considers that number to be “very few.” I’m betting those people’s families and friends don’t agree. I certainly don’t – especially considering it’s an elective procedure that may not have any health benefits and may have horrible long-term side effects for those it doesn’t kill.

That doesn’t include the fact that this figure is very likely low-balled because of a lack of long term follow up and the tendency to blame the patient (and not the surgery) if they die (also known as “surgery successful, patient died.”) It also doesn’t discuss the fact that many people live with unimaginable lifelong side effects, nor does it talk about the long term effects of surgically-induced malnutrition, and that many people regain their weight but not their ability to get proper nutrition. And, as Marilyn Wann pointed out, the people who are the most negatively affected are the least likely to have the chance to tell their stories publicly.

People should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including amputating perfectly healthy organs for whatever their reasons might be, people can choose to have this surgery despite the risks (though it’s arguable that anyone can truly give informed consent considering the lack of long term follow up data, the ways that this surgery is sold as a cure-all from diabetes to dating woes, and the fact that most surgical centers do not include stories from people whose surgeries resulted in nightmarish side effects in the information and presentations that they give prospective customers – still their bodies, their choice.)

Regardless, I think that organizations that claim to exist to support fat people should not be so flippant about killing tens of thousands of us.

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