The BMJ Today: Fat—the word that dare not speak its name in The BMJ?

One of The BMJ articles trending today is our outspoken weekly columnist Margaret McCartney’s latest piece, which takes to task recent critics of overweight NHS staff. Sally Davies and Simon Stevens, you know who you are.

The headline, “Fat doctors are patients too,” was queried by The BMJ duty editor yesterday. He questioned if “fat” was an appropriate word for a medical journal. We decided to keep the term in print, “lay” or not, because this is an opinion article; McCartney, a practising GP, had volunteered the phrase; and the piece, which had been online for days, has attracted no reader complaints. And yet, in our weekly online poll, we posed the question in more sober terms, “Can overweight doctors give credible lifestyle advice to their patients?” Which is best, does it matter, and do readers even care? Let us know.

One rapid responder, anaesthetist Kai Rabenstein, is comfortable with the term fat, congratulating McCartney for taking on “fattism” in the NHS.

Posting on Monday, Rabenstein says the health service is bursting with “a toxic mix of prejudice, obtuse blindness, and ignorance when it comes to obesity and fattism.”

“NHS staff show similar obesity statistics to the general population; there is a universal disinclination to address this issue—broadly comparable with the taboo around death and dying on the one hand and alcoholism on the other.” Instead of “being lectured by people who simply lack both personal experience of what they are talking about and the compassion that should be every healthcare professional’s touchstone,” what staff need is for every trust to develop and support health and wellbeing initiatives, wrote Rabenstein.

Figures published on once again demonstrate that bariatric surgery rapidly pays for itself in healthcare expenditure savings.

Data from the National Bariatric Surgery Registry show that two thirds of patients with type 2 diabetes at the time of bariatric surgery showed no indication of diabetes two years later and were able to stop their treatment. This is “compelling evidence,” of surgery’s cost effectiveness for obese patients, said Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Rebecca Coombes is magazine editor, The BMJ.