Weighing in on Dr. Bennett
I have no problem with THE TRUTH. In almost all cases, I find it preferable to LIES. I expect it from my elected officials, my students, my boss, and my colleagues. I demand it from my family and friends. I do not hide from it.
At the same time, I recognize that there are ways of telling the truth that are more acceptable than others. As a teacher, I know not to tell a parent that his/her child is as dumb as a box of rocks and has about as much ability as the box to speak another language. While that may be the truth, and I may mean every word of it, I'd never say it, as neither the student nor the parent will feel motivated to succeed and will only feel humiliated and demeaned. The poor parent has to know that his/her child is not the brightest crayon in the box - why rub it in by being unneccessarily blunt? Theres this little-known faculty called tact that I've developed over the years. There are some, apparently, whose tact could use a little honing.
And now we come to the crux of my rant this morning: it doesn't matter if what someone says is THE TRUTH, if how they say it is hurtful and demeaning. People will absorb the hurt long before they acknowledge the truth behind it. This is something that I've been trying to teach the WCM for years. Now, instead of saying "Jesus Christ! Your ass is huge!" he'll say "Sweetie, those pants really don't flatter your heinie." Same truth, different phrasing, world of difference.
Why this rant?
Dr. Terry Bennett and the kerfuffle over his remarks to a patient.
Over the last 2 weeks or so, I've read bloggers coming out of the figurative woodwork railing against the woman who dared file a complaint against the tactless practitioner. While I don't feel that a lawsuit is appropriate, and that she should definitely change doctors, I feel her complaint was completely justified.
The doctor's side of the story (from the New Hampshire Union Leader ):
Dr. Terry Bennett, who practices in Rochester, said he has "an obesity
lecture for women" that is a stark litany designed to get the attention of obese
female patients. He said he tells obese women they most likely will outlive an
obese spouse and will have a difficult time establishing a new relationship
because studies show most males are completely negative to obese women.
Bennett said he tells them their obesity will lead to high blood
pressure, diabetes, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux and stroke. One
patient who Bennett had seen five or six times took offense at the lecture and
filed a complaint against Bennett about a year ago with the New Hampshire
Board of Medicine.
Bennett says his former patient filed the complaint because "I told a fat woman she was obese. I tried to get her attention. I told her you need to get on a program,
join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill
So Dr. Bennett feels that the complaint was filed because of the content of his message. I beg to differ. It was clearly the delivery of the message that was inappropriate. Let's face it: the majority of Americans are overweight, myself included. This is not secret. It doesn't take an MD to know that you are overweight, either. It takes a scale or a mirror. The woman knew she was overweight. Dr. B could have been more tactful.
I'm sure that if Dr. Bennett had pointed out the weight gain and limited his remarksto the risks posed by it: hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, GERD, etc... and approached the patient's obesity from this purely medical standpoint, she would not have had a complaint.
Instead, he launched into a "lecture for obese women" where he told her that men don't like to f*ck fatties. He approached her from a social standpoint, and basically told her she was ugly and offensive. He didn't call her unhealthy, he called her undesirable. See the difference?
Perhaps I'm a little sensitive on this subject because there have been times when I haven't been the most tactful and have been called on it. It could also be that I'm also a Big Woman - a Gentlewoman of Full Habit, as my father would put it. Sure, this is hitting close to home.
I don't think it's too much to ask that people think before they speak, though. Sure, sometimes THE TRUTH hurts. But it doesn't have to be excruciating.