Doctors told to avoid offensive terminology

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DOCTORS are being urged to refrain from using the words "fat" or "obese" with patients who are overweight - and Hervey Bay doctor Paul Neeskens says it is "ridiculous".

The NSW Health policy, which could be mirrored here, instructs doctors to discuss a patient's weight in a "positive, sensitive and non-judgemental" manner to avoid offending patients.

Obese or obesity are out along with "malnourished", "morbidly obese" and "skinny" as they are considered "potentially offensive or stigmatising".

Doctors are told to instead use terms "shown to be acceptable to patients and carers" such as "well above a healthy weight".


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The policy has been widely criticised by The Australian Medical Association which said using softer terminology did not benefit some patients.

"The government doesn't deal with patients, we doctors do," Dr Neeskens said

"Who gives a toss about what the government says, they're not doctors."

Dr Neeskens said he strongly disagreed with the policy. He said it was an unfair assumption that the government could decide how a person should behave.

"We're becoming more precious as a society," he said.

According to Primary Health Network, 2015-2016 data revealed 32.7 per cent of people in Wide Bay were overweight while 28.9 per cent were considered obese.

UNIMPRESSED: Dr Paul Neeskens of Bayswater Family Practice thinks the new requirements are
UNIMPRESSED: Dr Paul Neeskens of Bayswater Family Practice thinks the new requirements are "ridiculous". Inge Hansen

The policy, which is the first of its kind, was based on advice from clinicians and parents and for doctors dealing with overweight adults and children.

AMA NSW president Dr Brad Frankum said while the word "fat" should never be used by doctors in general they should not always shy away from using the term "obese".

"The word obese is a medical term if it's used in the right context. Why would we not use it - if not to shock then at least confront them with the reality of their situation?"

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