Worcester doctor’s rule: No new patients weighing more than 200 pounds

A Worcester doctor has been getting attention this week for her decision not to take on new patients who weigh more than 200 pounds.

Dr. Helen M. Carter told WCVB reporter Pam Cross that she instituted the policy after staff members were injured while assisting overweight patients. She said people who are overweight may be better treated at an obesity clinic.

“There are alternatives,” she said.

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Patient Ida Davidson, who was turned away from Carter’s practice, saw it otherwise. “I may be high risk for her and too much work is what I felt,” Davidson said.

When WBUR CommonHealth blogger Rachel Zimmerman called her this morning, Carter said the decision was about “self preservation” and she “had no other choice”:

Carter says she has focused on the long-term implications of obesity for several years. She says she gives her patients “a whole long list” of the health risks related to carrying around so much extra weight — from heart disease to diabetes and stroke. But even though they’re at higher risk, Carter says they are not necessarily experiencing all of the downside of obesity yet and may not feel any urgency to lose weight. “It’s an insidious condition,” Carter says. “But in the end, the individual has to decide, “OK, I have to lose weight.”

Or deal with the consequences.

Carter cites, for example, an obese friend who buys two seats when she flies in order to have enough room on the plane.

“But I can’t charge double for an obese patient,” Carter said.