Curing diabetes with stigmatized surgery

Few people face more of a stigma than highly overweight or obese people who have gastric bypass surgery in order to lose weight. Many are told that their health problems are of their own making, and that they can simply choose to lose weight and get better.

I’ve heard this argument from some very smart people.

But what happens when that argument gets turned on its head? That same stigmatized surgery – gastric bypass, which isn’t covered for patients unless they have a dire need for it – is potentially a lifesaving preventative hope for people with diabetes.

Medical researchers are finding that gastric bypass surgery may almost immediately send diabetes into longterm remission in most patients who have the procedure – well before they lose any weight (a factor commonly associated with diabetes).

That’s the story for this week’s Yahoo! News 60 Minutes segment.

Factoring in diabetes seems to change how gastric bypass surgery is perceived. In our online, unscientific poll, nearly 80 percent of our 60 Minutes readers approved of allowing anyone with diabetes to have the surgery, even if they’re not morbidly obese.

Diabetes has in the past proven to be a popular topic among Yahoo! readers in general, probably because so many people are afflicted by it or know someone who is. But perhaps fewer people are afflicted by weight problems so severe or dogged that surgery seems to be the only option. That appears to be evident from the comments on our 60 Minutes story page about this topic.

I wonder if more people were exposed to the severe weight loss problems that bypass surgery treats, if there would be as much empathy for treating obesity through surgery as there is for treating diabetes with surgery.

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