I know First, Do No Harm, is primarily about private patients’ stories, but today’s Chris Christie spat is such a perfect example to bring up.
Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House physician, went on CNN and made the following comments about Chris Christie:
“I like Chris Christie a lot, I want him to run, I just want him to lose weight.”
“I’m a physician more than a Democrat or a Republican, and I worry about this man dying in office. I worry that he may have a heart attack, he may have a stroke…it’s almost like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before he runs for office.”
A doctor looking at nothing more than our weight and telling us we’re going to die? We all know that story. But what’s amazing is that Christie responded with probably the strongest statement against fat discrimination and doctor prejudice I’ve ever heard from a national politician, and it’s one we should all feel free to borrow when dealing with our own prejudiced doctors:
“You know, I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who’s never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a medical diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. She must be a genius. She should probably be the Surgeon General of the United States, I suspect, because she must be a genius. I think this is just another hack who wants 5 minutes on TV”
“And it’s completely irresponsible. 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.’ I have four children between 9 and 19. And my 12 year old son comes in last night and says, ‘Dad are you going to die?’ This is irresponsible stuff. And people who have a medical license, who have the privilege of having a medical license, should in my view conduct themselves more responsibly than that. If she wants to get on a plane to come here to New Jersey, and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I’ll have a conversation with her about that. But until that time she should shut up.”
If anything it’s too nice to the doctor (the sarcasm covers up the fact that she was grossly wrong even on statistical analysis–a 50 year old “morbidly obese” man with no comorbidities (I assume), who doesn’t drink or smoke, and is reasonably fit is fairly unlikely to die before 62, the age Christie would be when he leaves office if he runs and wins in 2016). But still, it’s pretty damned impressive to see a politician fire back with righteous anger at a bigoted doctor rather than abase himself and apologize for his weight.
My take on this is that the good doctor isn’t taking into account the amount of stress that anyone who is POTUS has to face on a daily basis. And it’s that stress that has a more deleterious effect on one’s health than only being fat ever could. But how many of our doctors ever ask about the stress in our lives? How many of them look at us, see a fat person, and automatically assume that we’re lazy and eating nothing but junk food? How many of them ignore things that could help improve our health in favor of prescribing the Nightmare On ELMM Street? This doctor isn’t any better or any worse than any of the doctors we’ve had to face who looked at us and saw nothing but their prejudices about fat people, she just happened to pick on the wrong man – a governor who has the guts and the media attention to strike back at her and tell it like it is: “You aren’t my doctor, you don’t know me, you don’t know my family history, you don’t know what I do or don’t do, you don’t know anything about my health, so you need to shut up and quit diagnosing long-distance.” I may not agree with his politics, but I say “Hooray for you, Governor Christie, hooray for standing up to a fat-phobic, bigoted doctor.”