Woman Uses Obituary To Call Out Doctors For Fat-Shaming Her While She Battled Cancer
Have you ever been fat-shamed by a doctor?
When Ellen Bennett was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and was given just days to live, she decided to spend her limited time left on Earth making sure she’d be remembered accurately, and that included giving specific instructions on how her obituary should be written. Bennett, who lived in Newfoundland, Canada, died on May 11 at the age of 64.
Her resulting obituary paints a lively picture of an interesting woman who led a full life. It describes a career in politics, including a stint on Parliament Hill, before she left to pursue her true passion of costume design. She went on to utilize her talent for the theater, television and film. “Ellen was all about style and art directed her own life splendidly,” it read.
Bennett wanted the photo below, which was taken just a week before she died, paired with her obituary because, as she said, “I look so good for someone almost dead!”
Bennett also took the opportunity to address an important issue she encountered while suffering from the illness that swiftly took her life: fat-shaming by those in the medical industry.
“A final message Ellen wanted to share was about the fat shaming she endured from the medical profession,” the obituary read. “Over the past few years of feeling unwell she sought out medical intervention and no one offered any support or suggestions beyond weight loss. Ellen’s dying wish was that women of size make her death matter by advocating strongly for their health and not accepting that fat is the only relevant health issue.”
Bennett’s message resonated with a lot of people who have experienced similar discrimination related to their weight when seeking medical treatment, and her obituary began circulating on social media. After seeing it, one person on Twitter wrote about how she realized her sister had been suffering from untreated ailments that doctors dismissed due to her weight:
It wasn't until I started taking interest in my sister's health as an adult and took her to my doctor that we found she had several ailments that had been untreated for years because doctors refused to treat her and kept telling her to lose weight first.
— sig💭 saw amatw (@dropdeadyeppeo) July 27, 2018
The perception that overweight patients are disproportionately treated unfairly due to their weight is not unfounded. What’s more, it can lead to disastrous consequences for their health.
“Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice,” said Dr. Joan Chrisler, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Connecticut College, at a symposium about sizeism in 2017. “Research has shown that doctors repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work or physical therapy for other, average weight patients.”
Here’s hoping that Bennett’s plea will inspire those in the medical field to reconsider how they may be unfairly treating patients based on their weight.