Surgical bias in favour of fat women

(as dictated to Mrs Grumble)

Alf was bemused to learn that fat women have an advantage over fat men.

His lesson was delivered by the Dom-Post, which tells us about a tubby Wellington bloke who won’t get taxpayer-funded weight-loss surgery because he is a man.

Ron Blair, 68, who weighs 132 kilograms, was referred for the potentially life-saving operation by his heart specialist in July but turned down by Capital and Coast District Health Board, which began funding a handful of weight-loss operations two years ago.

In a letter to his specialist, surgeon Kusal Wickremesekera revealed that “as a male, [Mr Blair] falls outside our current guidelines for surgery” but his case could be reconsidered in future.


Capital and Coast denies there was gender bias.

Director of surgery John Riordan said the board made the clinical decision to exclude more-complex patients initially (including males), as the two surgeons were still learning the procedure.

“The surgery is clinically more complex on men due to the way body fat is distributed [around the abdomen].”

Five patients got taxpayer-funded surgery through a private contract with Wakefield Hospital in 2007-08, four in 2008-09, and the board has budgeted for seven to have operations this year.

The board was taking referrals for both genders and patients previously turned down could be reconsidered, Dr Riordan said.

Wakefield Hospital specialist Richard Stubbs, who has been supervising the two public surgeons and helped select their patients, has told the newspaper gastric bypasses are highly dangerous.

He gave the newspaper some stats to show your survival chances.

Oh, and he said the wording of the letter – which was not meant to be seen by the patient – had been “unfortunate”.

…but there were other more serious factors than his gender that ruled Mr Blair out for surgery. He suffers from ailments including breathlessness, heart disease, vascular disease, diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea.

With 1000 Capital and Coast patients who could benefit from the operation, it made sense to do less-risky patients first, who had the best chance of surviving surgery.

Okay. This puts things in perspective.

Blair is desperate for the surgery nevertheless, even though he puts high odds on his carking.

He reckons he has a “40 per cent chance of dying on the table”.

But it was a risk he was prepared to take. “It’s quality of life in my old age I am after.”

Looks like he will have to get that quality of life by cutting down on his tucker intake.

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