File this under “I didn’t think they could sink any lower.” Marilyn Wann let me know about a San Francisco medical practice that used Craigslist to offer free weight loss surgery in exchange for “aggressively marketing our hospital and its services.” See for yourself:
Image used with permission from http://marilynnwann.tumblr.com/image/139142710104
The text says: We are a hospital looking for an individual in need of, or who has experienced, gastric bypass surgery to lead our social media and marketing efforts to attract patients to our hospital. We are willing to cover the cost of bariatric surgery for someone who can aggressively market our hospital and its services. If you have already had bariatric surgery and are interested in helping others along their path to weight loss, alternative compensation can be provided. Responsibilities will include managing and promoting social media profiles, posting on blogs and forums, and encouraging potential patients to contact us. Please send a resume, contact details, and a description of why you think you would excel in this position. Thank you.
Gastric bypass surgery is an elective procedure in which patients are encouraged to risk death and horrible lifelong side effects leading to a dramatically reduced quality of life, for the chance of being thin through medically induced starvation and malnutrition. This surgery has very questionable follow-up since there is a tendency to consider the surgery a success if the patient gets thinner regardless of what else happens – including blaming the patient when things go wrong, with surgeries listed as “surgery successful, patient died.” Harriet Brown wrote a great piece about some of the issues with weight loss surgery for alternet.
I’ve heard of doctors recommending the surgery without being honest about the side effects or chances of death, I’ve heard of nurses telling patients that if they have the surgery there will be men banging down their door (as if they attention of people who only want you if you’re thin is worth crossing the street, let alone risking your life.) I’ve heard of doctors trying to convince patients that they should risk their lives with this surgery to avoid dealing with social stigma – trying to convince them that the bullies are right and their bodies are the problem. But I’ve never heard of bribing people with a dangerous surgery. This is a new low for bariatric surgeons, and that’s saying something.
While people are allowed to choose to have this surgery, when doctors start giving away dangerous elective procedures in exchange for “aggressive marketing” of those procedures after the fact, the game changes. What if this person becomes yet another casualty in the “war on obesity?” What if they become one of the people who have constant, horrific side effects, surgery after surgery to try to correct the issues from the first surgery? What if they become one of the many, many people who regret the surgery and would never recommend it to anyone even tentatively let alone aggressively? Who will pay for their follow up? What will happen to their contract? Will they then be forced to pay the hospital back for a procedure they now regret ever having?
Quoting Marilyn “Here’s the response email if you’d like to tell them what you think of their offer of evisceration-for-servitude: firstname.lastname@example.org”
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