Sunday, February 28, 2010

I need more information on this one

I can always count on the Forum section in the Sunday Sacramento Bee to provide me with fodder for my forum; this weekend was no exception.

Special columnist Dr. Kay Judge wrote about a man named Donny, and started off her column with the following:
Donny Phillips died last month. Quietly, desperately, sadly. Donny was a 35-year old man, sick for most of his life, with a disease that health iunsurance does not acknowledge or reimburse for. At the end of his life, Donny could not get out of his bed. His body was too weak to hold him up, his lungs powerless to oxygenate him, his heart too worn out from overwork. He died without hope, a prisoner in his body, having spent the last six months in a hospital.
At this point, your thinking how terrible this all is. What could it be that could strike down a 35-year old man like this? Then Dr. Judge gives up the goods:
Donny was big. Really big: 800 pounds... he ballooned gradually. He got sicker and sicker. There was no medically reimbursable program available to help him lose weight. He got fatter and fatter.
Dr. Judge decried our health care and health insurance systems for Donny's overall care costing millions of dollars when his ailment could have been prevented with "the few thousand dollars for weight management that might have prevented it all [but] was not a covered expense."

My problem with Dr. Judge's article is yet another example of the malady that is rotting our nation, and that is the unwillingness to accept responsibility. Although she absolves Donny of his obesity by decrying the "[s]emantics, blame, and political correctness surround[ing] the issue of obesity, she fails to explain some rather important points that are integral to Donny's condition.

If this was simply a matter of obesity - as is repeatedly emphasized - I finished the column wondering how an 800 pound man could spend six months in the hospital and continue to get "fatter and fatter" as Dr. Judge so delicately put it?

I will always remember a segment on 20/20 or 60 Minutes, or one of those shows where they profiled a man who weighed about 1,000 pounds and was trapped in his own home. His wife took care of him in his infirmity. It was quite obvious why the man wasn't getting any thinner when a typical meal for him was a 12-piece bucket of KFC, furnished of course by his wife. This story was in the back of my mind as I read about Donny's predicament.

I'm sure that there are people suffering from obesity in this country who have have an honest-to-goodness medical condition that is responsible for it. But at the risk of sounding insensitive - and I don't believe that would be the first time - most obesity could be solved by people eating smaller portions and not shoving into their mouths excess amounts of high-calorie processed crap that is full of high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.

It's a tragedy what happened to Donny, but I would have appreciated more information about the story of his demise in order to properly put his death in context. The health industry received plenty of blame in Dr. Judge's column, but did Donny have any responsibility in all this?

Good Day to You, Sir


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