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Sat 26th September 2009

Denied weight-loss surgery because he is a man

Filed under: General,Men's Health — Darryl Ward @ 9:38 am

Letters may be sent to letters@dompost.co.nz

From: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/2905232/Denied-weight-loss-surgery-because-he-is-a-man

Denied weight-loss surgery because he is a man

By TIM DONOGHUE and RUTH HILL – The Dominion Post

A Wellington man was horrified to be told he would not get taxpayer-funded weight-loss surgery because he is a man.

Ron Blair, 68, who weighs 132 kilograms, was referred for the potentially life-saving operation by his heart specialist in July but turned down by Capital and Coast District Health Board, which began funding a handful of weight-loss operations two years ago.

In a letter to his specialist, surgeon Kusal Wickremesekera revealed that “as a male, [Mr Blair] falls outside our current guidelines for surgery” but his case could be reconsidered in future.

Mr Blair, a former chief cook on Cook Strait ferry Arahura, said he briefly contemplated a sex change. “In a fit of pique I dashed off a fax to [Health Minister] Tony Ryall asking him whether I’d qualify if I had a sex change. I’ve paid tax for over 40 years and believe I’m entitled to the stomach bypass surgery.”

Capital and Coast said there was no gender bias. Director of surgery John Riordan said the board made the clinical decision to exclude more-complex patients initially (including males), as the two surgeons were still learning the procedure.

“The surgery is clinically more complex on men due to the way body fat is distributed [around the abdomen].”

Five patients got taxpayer-funded surgery through a private contract with Wakefield Hospital in 2007-08, four in 2008-09, and the board has budgeted for seven to have operations this year.

The board was taking referrals for both genders and patients previously turned down could be reconsidered, Dr Riordan said.

Wakefield Hospital specialist Richard Stubbs, who has been supervising the two public surgeons and helped select their patients, said gastric bypasses were highly dangerous.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found 2.1 deaths per 100 patients at 10 centres in the US.

“That’s 10 times my rate I’ve had two deaths in about 1200 operations but it’s very easy to get a death.”

Dr Stubbs said the wording of the letter which was not meant to be seen by the patient had been “unfortunate”, but there were other more serious factors than his gender that ruled Mr Blair out for surgery. He suffers from ailments including breathlessness, heart disease, vascular disease, diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea.

With 1000 Capital and Coast patients who could benefit from the operation, it made sense to do less-risky patients first, who had the best chance of surviving surgery.

Mr Blair said he accepted he had a “40 per cent chance of dying on the table”. But it was a risk he was prepared to take. “It’s quality of life in my old age I am after.”

3 Responses to “Denied weight-loss surgery because he is a man”

  1. Hans Laven says:

    Conspicuously absent from the article is the gender breakdown of those who have already had this operation. I guess that’s because it will be 100% women in line with the policy they claim is not sexist.

    I wonder if the medical explanation, that men have a much higher risk of dying in this operation, can be justified from good research. I wonder if beliefs that women are more deserving of funded services in general or cosmetic medicine in particular are also part of the decisions in this area.

    Is a percentage higher risk a good enough reason to deny services on the basis of gender? In that case, perhaps bus and taxi drivers should be allowed to refuse seats to men because at any age they are more likely to suffer a heart attack from the stress of the journey.

    Even if a higher percentage of men die through this operation, being seen to provide gender equality in access to services is also a priority. I doubt very much that these doctors would ever have dared to give female gender as a reason for withholding a service.

    And it is a worry that Dr Stubbs thinks it’s ok to write letters about patients that those patients are not meant to see.

    Unfortunately, the DHB can now be expected to be more careful about the wording of letters concerning these operations, rather than working to overcome their preferential treatment of women.

  2. Hans Laven says:

    My letter, FYI

    Dear Editor

    Is a percentage higher risk a good enough reason to deny weight-loss surgery on the basis of gender? In that case, perhaps bus and taxi drivers should be allowed to refuse seats to men because at any age they are more likely to suffer a heart attack from the stress of the journey.

    Even if a higher percentage of men die through this operation, being seen to provide gender equality in access to services is important. I doubt very much that the doctors would have dared to give female gender as a reason for withholding a service. But discrimination against men, encouraged by false feminist propaganda, is now widely tolerated in advertising, media portrayals and in other state services such as Family and Criminal Courts. The domestic violence questionnaires given only to women by some DHBs are an obvious example.

    It is a worry that Dr Stubbs referred to a letter declining services as “not meant to be seen by the patient”. Unfortunately, the DHB can now be expected to be more careful about the wording of letters concerning these operations rather than working to overcome their discrimination against men.

    Yours faithfully

    Hans Laven
    375 Fraser St
    Tauranga
    Ph (07)5712435 or (0274)799745

  3. Fearless Frank says:

    Given average life expectancy for men is something like six or seven years less than for women, can it now be established that part of the reason for this is blatent discrimination against men: not availing surgery that might otherwise give a reasonable chance of a longer life, must reduce the overall life expectancy of men?

    I saw a short on TV just tonight whereby a middle aged man with prosate cancer could not receive publically funded life saving treatment; he had private insurance and despite that, still funded $000’s of his own $, and is now ‘cured’.
    His wife was then diagnosed with breast cancer, and had her treatment funded in full.

    Blatent sexual discrimination?
    Any wonder women stiull have longer life expectancy?

    Coincidentally, I understand public health will also pay for breast reconstruction surgury, because OMG! woman is not a full woman without two breasts! I await the day man can obtain publically funded reconstructive testicle surgery ….

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