The Royal College of Surgeons are lobbying to do more weight loss surgery. In a news release today they said that only 2% of eligible people are getting the surgery at the moment.
I'm intrigued by this figure. NHS data on obesity is very patchy, according to a speaker in the know at an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity meeting I attended last year, so what does 2% mean? 2% of all people who have a certain BMI? And, as usual, BMI is what determines health rather than any other factors? And that having a certain BMI means that you should have surgery?
I'm inclined to think that the RCS is trying to create a need for itself by lobbying for making weight loss surgery more available. It adds to the idea that surgery is inevitable for fat people, it's a benefit that is currently being denied, and it sanctions the manufactured need for intrusive surgical intervention on 'failed' fat bodies.
Part of the RCS report proposes that fat people in 'need' of surgery have to wait for it and thus get fatter is also peculiar. This notion fuels stereotypes about fat bodies being unbounded, getting fatter and fatter until we pop or smother the world.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports figures released by the Medical Defence Union, which insures and defends medical professionals. According to the MDU there has been an increase in compensation claims made by people who have had the surgery privately, including claims regarding a death.
It's hard to get a picture of the health costs of weight loss surgery in the UK because the NHS does not currently collect data, and private companies are unlikely to broadcast their failure rates.
As usual, critical perspectives are absent, and fat people are framed purely in terms of their desperation, helplessness, and compliant patient identities.