A prominent digestive system surgeon I know recently confided in me, “we hate doing gastric bypass surgeries, but our hospital makes us do them because they’re a profit center.” I asked him why his surgical team hated them. His explanation was simple: “they’re dangerous, and a lot of times they cause complications like infections, and even death. Besides, the problem of obesity is not solved with them.” My surgeon friend is himself a bit obese, but would never undergo surgery for it.
I knew what he said was true. I know lots of people who have tried them over the years, and there’s never a good result, at least from what I have observed and heard. I have quite a few clients who came to me for help after the surgeries that didn’t work and they were desperate. Therefore, I am very against gastric bypass surgeries. I’m frankly against any surgery to assist in weight loss – gastric banding, stomach stapling: you name it, I’m against it. For the consumer, or rather over-consumer (and I mean that term most sincerely) it’s about getting healthy, which is a result of a combination of self-discipline that’s impossible to achieve on one’s own; sometimes radical changes in eating and moving are required, which is also virtually impossible for obese folks; and an array of vital emotional and spiritual fulfillments – in a culture that’s obsessed with money and the generation of consumption, exactly the opposite of what is required to get and stay healthy. Surgery doesn’t get to the core problems. It’s at best a very risky, temporary intervention.
Yet another article appeared recently in the Las Vegas Sun (of all places that encourages consumption!) by Marshall Allen, on the subject of weight loss and drastic measures, but this time with a different angle: “The Hidden Cost of Obesity.” The article really gets to the point of gastric bypass surgery – it’s all about the money! It asks if taxpayers would be in favor of saving a lot of money if massive costs of drugs and medical services to treat obesity were reduced. It points out that insurance companies often do not cover costs of weight-reduction surgery, because bariatric surgeries often cost the companies lots of upfront money and it’s hard to recoup. It’s Medicare that pays, in other words, us.
How do I answer the question of saving tax dollars if the high costs of obesity were reduced? Is the question really “if bypass surgery ends up being cheaper than long term care for obese people, should we have more of it paid by Medicare, thereby saving taxpayer dollars?” My answer is NO. We should not encourage or pay for surgical intervention for weight reduction, because it endangers health and doesn’t ultimately solve the problem; it creates other problems. What’s not being discussed is the value of a human life, and the long-term risks and associated physical, emotional and spiritual costs of other complications due to arise in the long-term.
If an obese person cannot find the discipline to make and sustain dramatic changes in every aspect of living, surgery isn’t going to fix that. We cannot make these drastic changes on our own, if we could, we would, and surgery isn’t the answer. Human lives are far more valuable than the cost of surgeries, medications, and risks. It’s time we end our focus on money and consumption of goods, and the acquisition of profit.
What does work for saving obese people’s lives, helping us lose weight and get our health back? God only knows. I mean that most sincerely, too. We need to want to change and ask God for help, then slowly and surely, over the long-term, God shows us the path through healthy eating habits, enjoyable movement and learning to love and use our wonderful bodies, giving us great love and nurturing in the process. And God’s help is totally free and painless.
Where do YOU stand on saving tax money with gastric bypass surgery? On weight-reduction surgery – have you had it, do you know someone who has?
My fellow Beliefnet blogger, Janice Taylor also wrote about this, take a look. I agree with her about it being a life issue.
UPDATE: I wrote a response. Check it out. Click on this line.