Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weight Discrimination?

This week is the annual Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society conference here in Toronto. My supervisor from the fertility clinic, one of the doctors, and myself have a poster presentation on egg donors. We reviewed several years of clinical records and noticed a trend: egg donors seem to have experienced a significant degree of familial conflict, disconnect and loss. In particular, they report a higher than expected incidence of parental death or estrangement. This has us wondering whether experiencing the loss (weather through death or emotional disconnect) is related to views on biological ties. In other words, are these individuals less concerned with having their genetic material floating around because they do not necessarily equate biological ties with kinship? Of course, we only have minimal quantitative data so to answer that question, more in-depth research is required.

Having seen so many couples struggling to have a baby and needing to use donated eggs, I wish I had donated eggs and been able to help people in this situation. Unfortunately, now that I'm 37, my eggs are likely too old. In Canada it is illegal to pay someone for their eggs (expenses can be reimbursed). Would you ever consider donating your eggs?

In any case, one of the top news stories on CTV this morning was one of issues being discussed at the conference this week. Fertility clinics are beginning to turn away obese women and refuse them treatment because of the potential health risks involved. Critics say this is weight discrimination.

Personally, I do not agree. Aren't there other medical procedures that are restricted based on weight status because of the additional risks of having surgery or particular medical procedures when severely obese? Isn't it the duty of doctors to try and avoid harm to patients whenever possible? Private clinics are also private businesses where doctors are entrepreneurs and have the right to make decisions about their practice such as this as they see fit. This may not always be fair, but it is the law.

What do you think?


  1. Love this discussion!

    1) My family ties are weak. I've considered donating my eggs. In the US, the money is nice,but I couldn't take enough time off work/school to allow for recovery.

    2) I think weight discrimination comes down to financial and legal ties. I don't know how it works in Canada, but if any public financial support is going towards these procedures, I can imagine the added expense would be enough to turn down high-risk situations. In addition, in the US malpractice suits are a big concern, so I can imagine that doctors don't want to take on the added danger of having a high-risk patient have adverse complications.

  2. Doc - Usually the recovery from egg retrieval is only a day or so, but the cycle monitoring is definitely time consuming!

    In Ontario there is no public support for fertility treatments (the one exception is IVF for women who have blocked tubes). Malpractice isn't as big a concern here. So what are your thoughts, should the doctors here still be allowed to turn obese patients away?

  3. How informative!

    I guess I think doctors should not be able to turn away patients unless the risk outweighs the benefits. I do not know enough about IVF to know how possible this situation is, but I know that a good deal of gastric bypass limitations come from the dangers during surgury (or in this case, pregnancy) to the patient (or the fetus). I do think that patients should be equipped with a plan for weightloss if they are denied treatments. That might motivate them to lose weight AND give them a goal to work towards for receiving fertility treatments.