The Hippocratic Oath

Yesterday I wrote about my disgust over a former White House doctor’s comments regarding NJ governor, Chris Christie’s weight and health. I wanted to give Governor Christie major credit for taking Ms. Mariano to task on this story. Christie said, ” that a doctor in Arizona w has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history , could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away is completely irresponsible. my children saw that last night. and she sat there on tv and said i’m afraid he’s going to die in office. my 12-year-old son comes up to me last night and says, “dad, are you going to die?”

Ms. Mariano replied, “it doesn’t take a physician to look at him to observe he’s overweight.”

Really? Gee, thanks for that enlightening tidbit, and also thank you for reaffirming my belief that the way you practice medicine is to diagnose based on looks. Well done, Ms. Mariano.

Mariano has also said she has no regrets over her comments, and that they were meant to be “constructive” Yeah, because fat people all over the world don’t already know that the majority of people – and doctors – see them as walking heart attacks.

I want to take a few minutes to look at the oath that doctors swear. It’s the Hippocratic Oath, and while there are many versions of it, both modern re-writes and multiple translations of the original, the take away is the same no matter which variant is spoken upon graduation from medical school. And nearly 100% of medical schools in the US have some form of this oath.

Let’s see how many different ways Ms. – oops, sorry – DOCTOR – Mariano broke her profession’s supposedly sacred oath, shall we? For the sake of this post, I’m using the modern translation found here.

“I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.”

Despite plenty of scientific research to support the claim that diets not only don’t work, but often result in increased body mass, Dr. Mariano still promotes weight loss. That doesn’t sound like “respect” of “scientific gains” to me.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

I don’t really think there’s any question whatsoever about Mariano’s lack of warmth, sympathy and understanding. She demonstrated that clearly in her original comments about a man she’s never even met, let alone treated, and she only solidified that when she didn’t even have the decency to apologize for upsetting Governor Christie’s children, who saw her ridiculous report on the news.

“Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.”

Very cavalierly stating that you’re very worried that a man you’ve never met or treated (I cannot reiterate that point enough) will die in office pretty much breaks that oath. To do so publicly and in a forum that will garner worldwide attention only makes it even more disrespectful. I think we can say Dr. Mariano trampled all over this bit of the oath.

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability.”

Well, maybe Ms. Mariano feels exempt from this, seeing as how she NEVER TREATED THE MAN… but since she decided to weigh in on the absurd situation, let’s consider the fact that she isn’t seeing Governor Christie like as a person. She doesn’t see the man, she only sees the fat. She showed no remorse or regret for the fact that she upset his family, and I doubt she gives a rat’s ass over the fact that her comments, as a former White House physician, have the potential to affect his future political career – and therefore his future economic stability.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”

So, instead of trying to “cure” one man of what you consider an illness, Dr. Mariano, why aren’t you doing legitimate research that results in the end of the so-called obesity epidemic? Right, because you’ve bought the party line on fat and health, and your narrow mind can’t think outside the paradigm you hide behind. Moving on.

“I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”

While I’m sure you think that your snarky attitude and casual comments about a man’s life and death and career are helpful, let me assure you, they are not. As you so eloquently pointed out, it doesn’t take a physician to see that Governor Christie is overweight. The man has made plenty of references to his struggles with his weight, as well as jokes. So you can’t claim that he’s unaware of what you consider to be his problem, can you? Your little performance wasn’t about enlightenment. If you truly were concerned for him, you’d have reached out to him directly and privately, instead of taking your “normal” sized body on tv and spewing risks for his health without having ever met the man. I’m not sure what your agenda is, but I’m quite sure you have one, and Mr. Christie’s health is not even slightly at the forefront of it. The only obligation you seem to be paying mind to is that of your own career goals.

Dr. Connie Mariano is hardly the only doctor to break these supposedly sacred vows. Millions of doctors do it every time a fat patient walks into their office with a health issue and they tell said fat patient that the problem is their fault for being fat. Plenty of doctors get in front of cameras and make false claims, or throw out scary statistics that are skewed to this idea that being fat equals certain and imminent death. Doctors who perform barbaric surgeries on people who are not healthy enough – mentally or physically – to have said surgeries break this oath. Psychiatrists who approve those patients for surgery when they know full well the patient is not mentally prepared for the realities of life post-op break those oaths.

Dr. Mariano is simply the most recent and most public of medical professionals to open her mouth without thinking about the ramifications of what she is saying. Doctors like Ms. Mariano have no business practicing medicine. They are irresponsible, arrogant and presumptuous, not to mention bigoted and biased. We will never “solve” the so-called obesity epidemic as long as we continue to empower people like Dr. Mariano. Instead, we will see exactly what we’ve seen the last 20 years… a steady increase in weight gain despite all the so-called “lifestyle” changes or diets that people try. We’ll see the continued rise in bullying that happens when the media decides to seize on a perceived epidemic. We’ll see people waste their lives hating themselves, hating their bodies and living in shame over something that should be irrelevant.

How I look has nothing to do with the kind of medical care I deserve. It has nothing to do with whether or not I am qualified for a job. And it should have absolutely nothing to do with how happy I am in my life. I am lucky enough to have a husband and friends who love me for who I am, not how I look. Not everyone gets that opportunity, but part of that is that we need to empower ourselves. We need to realize we are worthy of love, of respect and of quality healthcare regardless of our size or looks. Only then can we find true happiness.

~Jessica

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Chris Christie’s weight drama

On January 10th, 2013 it was reported that Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey (my home state) had an approval rating of 78%. Christie, a Republican whose politics are not always popular with Democrats, even polled 70% approval with that demographic. The “Superstorm Sandy” crisis helped him immensely, with most in NJ very impressed with how he handled the aftermath of that horrific natural disaster. With approval ratings President Obama, and many presidents before him, could only dream of, Christie seems a likely choice for the GOP front-runner in the next election.

Whether or not someone is qualified for the office of president should have NOTHING to do with how someone looks. It should be about political platforms and goals, as well as career accomplishments. Yet, in the case of Chris Christie, it’s not. It’s about his damn weight. Former NJ Governor Jon Corzine attempted to use Christie’s weight against him during campaign ads, saying he was “throwing his weight around.” It didn’t work, and Christie managed to beat Corzine. But that’s one state. Can a fat man really win a national election in a country obsessed with the so-called obesity epidemic?

President Bill Clinton’s former White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano – a woman with NO personal knowledge of Christie’s health – said publicly yesterday that Christie’s health is “like a ticking time bomb.” She warned,darkly,”I’m worried about this man dying in office.” She went on to say she is a Republican and wants him to run, but only if he’s lost weight first. Mariano also said, “When somebody who has morbid obesity is running around, he’s probably got heart disease and continued stress and eventually will have a heart attack. So that’s the time-bomb theory. It’s bound to happen if he continues that lifestyle.”

Really, Ms. Mariano? Sorry, but when you spew off random and biased BS, I refuse to call you “doctor.” You are supposed to be a medical professional. This diatribe doesn’t show the intelligence and skill I’d expect from someone who served 9 years in the White House medical staff. Instead, it demonstrates a clear bias against people who are fat. It shows a bias that I think is a far bigger risk to the health of overweight people than their actual weight! Let’s also not forget that Ms. Mariano’s famous former patient Bill Clinton, a man who has generally “looked” healthy – in other words, he’s looked like a “normal” weight, has had more than one heart scare, and ultimately even had quadruple bypass surgery. So I ask, Ms. Mariano… how succsessful was your healthcare treatment of former President Clinton? Should we judge your skills, as a physician, solely on that one patient? You are credited with helping him get his weight down (not that Clinton would ever have been considered “fat”), and yet he still had to have major heart surgery. Gee, does that suggest, perhaps, that genetics are a factor? That dietary choices – and not merely what the scale says – might play a role?

Ragen Chastain just wrote an excellent blog post about how the healthcare industry likes to blame fat people for whatever ails them, and I highly recommend you read it.

Christie, by his own admission, has struggled with dieting for 30 years. He also told David Letterman that he is is, “basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve seen in your entire life.” He also said that his blood sugar and cholesterol levels are both normal, but added that his own doctor has (not at all surprisingly) warned him that his luck will run out. By his own admission, Christie’s spent the last 30 years dieting. He said, “I’m making the best effort I can. And sometimes I’m successful, and other times I’m not. And sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure.” This makes me really sad for Christie. First of all, what he looks like should have no bearing on the job he’s doing. He proved, in the hours following Hurricane Sandy, that his weight is not a hindrance to him in a crisis situation. Secondly, when you consider the facts about dieting, the odds of him ever “succeeding” in a way that will satisfy his critics – and idiots like Connie Mariano – are incredibly slim (no pun intended, believe me).

95 – 98% of people who do lose weight will gain it back within 5 years. This is simply a fact. It’s been shown over and over in countless studies to be a fact. Which means, at best, 5% of people who diet will maintain that weight loss. Why does this fact so rarely get mentioned in the mainstream media? Why is the focus not on healthy habits as opposed to weight loss? We do insane, and often very unhealthy, things to attempt to lose weight. And for what? We put our bodies through hell. We allow ourselves to be defined by a number on the scale. We beat ourselves up emotionally for “failure,” when the simple reality is that we’re not to blame for the “failure.” The dieting industry sells us false hope and false promises. The tiny print at the bottom of every diet ad that states “results not typical” should be enough to make us all realize that diets do not work, and yet we all think we’ll be the exception. We’ll be in that 2 – 5% that magically manage to succeed. Diets do not work. But an industry that is raking in about $60 billion dollars annually doesn’t want us to know that, despite what the research shows.

I say no more. Mr. Governor, I don’t ever expect you’ll see this blog post, but I sincerely hope you take advantage of the national platform you’ve landed on. You have the chance to redirect the conversation, as you tried to do when Barbara Walters asked you if you were too fat to be president, and you told her that is ridiculous. You’re right. It is ridiculous. 30 years of your life is enough to give to the critics who say you need to be thin to be successful and, more importantly, healthy. You do the right things for your body. Only you know what those things are, and only you have the right to decide what steps, if any, you need to take right now to be a healthier you.

Whether or not Chris Christie is qualified to be president has nothing to do with how he looks or what the scale says. It should be related only to his professional career. The voters opted to overlook his weight before, and we can only hope they will do so again when he runs for re-election in NJ later this year. Our leaders should be elected based on merit, not based looks or biased claims from so-called medical professionals with no actual evidence to support them.

~Jessica