The Unintended Consequences of Government-Sponsored Weight-Loss Surgery

Here’s how Darin McCloud, a 45-year-old man in Portsmouth, England, has been eating lately:

He has been scoffing three-quarters of a loaf of bread, several packets of crisps and bacon rolls every day, and tucking into chips, takeaways and junk food for his tea.

Why?

Because, according to the Mirror, he wants to lose weight.

And McCloud has apparently decided the best way to lose weight is to have gastric-bypass surgery. (We once wrote a column on this topic.) The problem is that, at 20 stones (280 pounds), he doesn’t quite meet the requirements for NHS-sponsored gastric surgery. So he’s trying to eat his way up to the limit:

“The reason why I want the operation is to help my diabetes. It will help me stop being on insulin and help me with my other problems. I have had diabetes for the best part of 15 years and I’m absolutely scared of being a burden on my family in the future.”

Can you imagine what would happen if Alcoholics Anonymous decided to require a certain level of alcohol intake?

(HT: Colin Gray)

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  1. Neil says:

    Sounds like an episode of “The Simpsons” to me. One of the better ones, in my opinion…

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  2. Ted Han says:

    The real problem with gastric bypasses and surgeries like it, is that it’s not not an actual solution to weight gain or maintaining a healthy weight. It is a tool which should be used in conjunction with life style changes ideally supported by health professionals like dietitians.

    Unfortunately neither the public at large, or politicians understand this, which has lead to wonderful situations like the one in Ontario, where the government will pay and perform for gastric bypass surgery with minimal support or planning for a patient’s care after the procedure.

    Arbitrary weight limits aren’t the root problem, they’re a symptom of a failure to understand an implement sensible plans of care.

    This guy should go see a dietician, and if he’s serious about losing weight, figure out a plan to lose weight. Maybe that should include gastric bypass. But the fact that he’s reaching for this w/o consultation w/ a health professional is like someone walking into a doctor complaining about leg pain and insisting upon an amputation. Proceed with care (pun intended).

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  3. Mike says:

    This may be an unintended consequence, but I doubt that the “government-sponsored” part plays into it. I would guess that the reasons for the weight limit are less to do with financial reasons and more to do with the relative risks of having the surgery versus being “only” 280 pounds.

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  4. Chris says:

    How is this a consequence of “government sponsored” health care? Private insurance companies and medical professionals in the US have standards and guidelines for when they will pay for and perform a gastric bypass surgery do they not? Would, if the story was about a US citizen who didn’t meet the minimum standards of his HMO, have the headline ‘The Unintended Consequences of Private Insurer Weight-Loss Surgery’?

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  5. jonathan says:

    If he had private health insurance, they would also have a standard for gastric bypasses. NHS in this case is doing what any insurer would do: setting a care standard. The government is only involved because it stands behind NHS.

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  6. Tucker says:

    This proves yet again that the British have an even stranger relationship to health and healthcare than Americans.

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  7. Mike B says:

    Instead of a weight standard the government should use a cost effectiveness metric that compares the savings from the weight related miladies vs the cost of the surgery. If there is any shortfall they can always have the patient make up the difference instead of outright denying the procedure.

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  8. Michael Y says:

    @ #2: “The real problem with gastric bypasses and surgeries like it, is that it’s not not an actual solution to weight gain or maintaining a healthy weight.”

    But his goal in getting the gastric bypass surgery is not primarily weight loss, it’s treating his diabetes. And, for reasons that are not well understood, gastric bypass surgery is extremely effective at treating diabetes — effectively curing it in the vast majority of patients. Further, the diabetes reversal appears to be independent of weight gain — it often occurs well before any significant weight loss has occurred.

    “But the fact that he’s reaching for this w/o consultation w/ a health professional is like someone walking into a doctor complaining about leg pain and insisting upon an amputation.”

    Read the article. His doctor, a diebetes specialist, is recommending that he have the surgery.

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