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One Final Fat Joke

January 11, 2012

You know what gives me the warm-fuzzies? When people do nice things, like hold the door open for others, or work at soup kitchens, or make donations!

Sometimes, it’s very hard to decide to make a donation. For example, being an organ donor or donating your body to science. No one really wants to think about dying, and everyone has their own ideas and comfort zones, and so making these decisions can be very difficult. Despite the difficulty of these donations, they are of utmost importance, bettering the lives of many, many people, and one would assume that the people who receive such donations would be very grateful to the donating family, and person.

Well, imagine my shock when I read this article.

Apparently a deceased man’s family was trying to donate his body to science (I assume as per his wishes) and was turned down. Why? At 6 foot 1 inch and 350 pounds, he’s too fat.

The article says that there are space issues, as well as issues preserving a body of that size, and that the bodies are usually moved about by technicians and students of anatomy and medicine who are, as quoted in the article, “slim.” Because, you know, there aren’t any fat doctors or medical students. No! That would just be silly.

Anyway, I understand that these schools can only hold so much and it’s harder to store and move a heavier, bigger anything. But some of these programs’ weight limits top out at 170 pounds! Seems like those programs would be turning down a lot of donations that could be doing some good.

The article got a little insulting a little further on.

“There’s also the educational aspect to consider. Donated bodies are used primarily for first-year anatomy students, who need to learn how the human body is supposed to look,” said Ronn Wade, director of the Anatomical Services Division of the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore. (Emphasis mine.)

Fatties aren’t normal, guys. That’s not how a body is supposed to look. Geez. And it’s not like we want our students to be prepared for the real world where fat people exist. Oh, and…

“Obese bodies are more difficult, time-consuming and unpleasant to study,” said Wade, who also heads his state’s anatomy board.

I don’t know if there is a circumstance when dissecting another human being is pleasant. But if there were such a time, fatties would ruin it. Darned fatties.

The article goes on to explain that these donations are vital and some schools of medicine are so worried about maintaining a “steady flow” of bodies that they may have to up the weight limit if people don’t stop being fat. So, you know, if advances in medicine totally stop, that’s the fault of the fat people, not the fact that medical schools and students don’t want to deal with fat bodies from day one.

The article concludes by stating that the donor’s families often feel victimized when their loved ones’ extremely important, altruistic, and difficult decision for the end of their physical being is denied. I can’t imagine how upsetting that would be. To have a loved one be recently passed and have people, in essence, say that, this deceased loved one isn’t good enough to help society. Of course they feel victimized! Fat people get treated badly pretty much the whole time they’re fat, and for many, that’s their whole lives. To then turn around and donate their body to help the society that, at one point, tore them down is an extremely selfless thing to do. But to then be denied even that sure feels like one final fat joke.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Kala permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:00 am

    If the issue had simply been the preservation, that might be reasonable. If the issue had been keeping the lessons for each student group fairly the same, that might be another legitimate reason. For example, if students are all supposed to be doing the same dissections and activities each lab, but students with more obese cadavers have to spend considerably more time for the procedure, and I could see that being an issue in the classroom.

    But their entire position falls apart once they reveal that seemingly the most important reasons for the distinction are the fat hate. All this junk about what a body is supposed to look like, means very little. Even if being thin was some sort of choice, which it isn’t, the obvious fact that so many people out there are fat still makes it obvious that studying the fat body is relevant and important.

  2. January 11, 2012 11:28 am

    While I am generally one of the first to step up when I feel that fat bias is happening, I think that I have to disagree with your interpretation of this one.

    Most of the cadavers in question are being dissected by first-year medical students. That means that they have not had any exposure yet to dealing with an actual human body and it is important that they are able to see everything easily and without dealing with extraneous issues. At that point in their education, variation is not something that is applicable, that comes later, so you want to have examples that are as similar as possible in order to allow for the instructor and the students all to be looking at the same thing. If one student is dealing with layers of fat which prevents them from easily getting to the internal organs, it skews their education. And let’s be honest, it is NOT “insulting” or “fat-hate” to acknowledge that yes, it is harder for surgeons and medical professionals to work on fat bodies because the layers of fat DO make it more difficult for them to get to the internal organs.

    Now, could those bodies be used for advanced classes, where it is important for the students to see variations in body type or variations in health (fat and healthy versus slender and unhealthy for instance!)? Certainly! Of course!

    Yes, it hurts when the final request of a family member cannot be met, but I’m not sure that we should get out the pitchforks and torches on this one. We Fat Folke are so used to seeing and hearing put-downs of ourselves that it is easy to read into things that people say or do and to take away meanings that were never there in the first place. I don’t believe that Mr. Wade (Dr. Wade?) was being fat-phobic or deliberately insulting when he said what he did.

    There are so many battles to fight concerning the stigma of being fat. Finding fault where there perhaps may not really be fault just drains valuable energy from our efforts.

    As always, this is one person’s opinion. Feel free to think I’m wrong, or to think I’m right. Everyone has to make their own decisions as to what they want to use their time and energy on. 🙂

    • January 11, 2012 11:37 am

      You said that beginning students should start off with bodies that are easy to dissect and study, and I would agree with that. Differences in the preservation and handling of fat cadavers are another issue worth considering. However, I think you missed the part where NO fat bodies were being accepted for ANY reason. That’s a problem.

      And what about the comment “Students need to see what the human body is SUPPOSED to look like?” That’s a problem.

      And what about the comment “Obese bodies are more difficult, time-consuming and unpleasant to study,” said Wade, who also heads his state’s anatomy board.”

      Did you read this article or what?

      • January 13, 2012 12:58 pm

        Yes, I did read the article. My answer was put in a conversational and respectful manner. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return.

        I did not miss the part where no fat bodies are being accepted for any reason. However, I have done a fair amount of reading on this issue since it came up earlier this week, and have seen several articles with several different medical school officials stating that cadavers are used for first-year students as an introduction to the human body. In this circumstance, this means that there ARE no other reasons to need cadavers, and thus no reason to accept fat bodies or bodies that are outside a certain standard of appearance (internal or external). They are looking for uniformity in order to allow for a curriculum that presents all students with the same information at the same time. Anyone who has taught any kind of subject will confirm that uniformity of information is critical at the beginning stages of a subject. Diversity becomes necessary at later stages in order to encourage students to react to circumstances that arise outside of that original parameter.

        As for the “supposed to look like” comment, I read that as well, however, I read it to state simply what I just said above, though perhaps not with the most conscientious or thoughtful wording.

        I simply suggest that rather than leaping on anyone and everyone who words things poorly, we step back and consider what is actually being said rather than what we wish to hear. We are all so used to hearing the negative regarding fat, to having to defend our bodies and our lives from the idiots of the world that it is easy to assume something that was not meant and more important than ever for us to step back and consider our OWN words before we say / type them.

        Not everyone will agree with me, and that is fine. I do, however, hope that disagreement comes after thought and with courtesy.

    • January 11, 2012 12:15 pm

      Sooo….dontcha think that it would be good if medical students LEARNED how to work on these “more difficult” fat bodies while they were practicing in the cadaver labs? Maybe the more difficult bodies wouldn’t be as difficult if doctors literally knew the ins and outs of them!

      • January 11, 2012 12:18 pm

        I’m sorry if that last comment came off as condescending–when I reread it it kinda was, and you weren’t being condescending so I had no right to react that way. I’m so used to being on the defensive when it comes to size issues and I just (under my real name) confronted those fuckheads at Strong 4 Life about that child shaming campaign of theirs. Lys, I hope you will accept my apology. Although I don’t entirely agree with you I should have said so more respectfully. I can be a bit of an ass sometimes.

        • January 13, 2012 1:02 pm

          No problem at all! I get it. I really do. And yeah, I sent an e-mail to the Strong4Life people as well (and got the form-letter brush-off back via e-mail). It CAN be frustrating to continually have to deal with that kind of stupidity on a moment by moment basis. But as I commented above in a response to someone else, I think it’s important that we stop and really assess whether there is actual insult or whether we are perceiving something that isn’t meant to be there just because we DO have to deal with it so very often.

          Someday people won’t have to think about this kind of thing, I hope.

          Anyway, no worries, and thank you so much for the apology. It is completely accepted with no hard feelings. 🙂

          And as for agreeing or disagreeing, that’s what boards like this are for, right? The ability to share different viewpoints in a rational manner? I love hearing differing opinions expressed, and expressing my own (in case you hadn’t noticed via my long-winded responses *snerk*).

          Have a great day!

  3. January 11, 2012 12:13 pm

    As an up and coming medical student, my son would say that he wants to work on bodies of every size and all conditions of health, and to learn about a variety of bodies while working in the cadaver lab. It’s shameful that they would not allow this man to donate his body to science if he wishes to. Fat shaming extends even beyond the grave!
    It is interesting to note that my father consistently weighed around 225 pounds when he was able to be active–in his heyday he ran 6 miles a day. But when he became disabled following a major hemorrhagic stroke and subsequently developed congestive heart failure, he was well over 300 pounds when he died–and he wasn’t eating at the end. The weight was all fluid. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at the organs of someone with such health conditions if you were a medical or forensic science student? I would certainly think so!

  4. vesta44 permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:32 pm

    I would think that advanced medical students would need to work with fat cadavers, especially if they’re going to be surgeons. How else are they going to learn how to find organs in a fat body? Is it any wonder surgeons don’t want to operate on fat people? They haven’t learned how to do so when they were in medical school – they had to learn on actual, living, fat patients. I would hate to be the first fat patient of any type of surgeon. If I’m having surgery, I want a surgeon who’s had experience cutting through layers of adipose tissue to find out and fix what’s wrong with me. I sure as hell don’t want to be his first patient and a guinea pig on which he can experiment and learn.

  5. Fab@54 permalink
    January 11, 2012 7:58 pm

    Sooooo, basically, even in death we (fatties) are useless and inconvenient….. Nice.

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