Weight Loss surgery on TV 

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Things to keep in mind when you see shows about WLS on TV
  • Most of the patients are less than 2 years post op (before complications have set in)
  • They never say you have to diet to keep the weight off.
  • They suggest that no one regains (most patients regain at least 50 percent of what they lost the first year)
  • They almost never talk about complications or that some patients eventually need a "takedown" to save their lives
  • No one talks about the down side (like pain, regain, unexpected vomiting)
  • When they advertise surgery like WLS, they don't have to tell you about the side effects or complications
  • Scare tactics are used like telling a young person they will die in 5 years unless they have WLS (TOTALLY UNTRUE!)

Lately, gastric bypass surgery has been "sold" on TV as a quick easy way to lose a lot of weight fast. And people, in our fat obscessed society are buying it in large numbers.

"Every time Carnie Wilson appears on TV", a surgeon's office told "Self Magazine", "our phones ring off the hooks with prospective patients!"

Pharmaceutical companies which advertise their medications on TV are required to give side effects IN the ad.  If they advertise in a magazine, they are required to give prescription information in detail (usually an entire page of small print after the ad).

Since, before about 15 years ago, physicians and surgeons considered mass advertising unprofessional and didn't do it, there were NO restrictions put into place and thus today when the viewpoint has changed, we have a BIG loophole in the advertising of surgical services.  Put very simply, NO side effects have to be listed at all.

Ads for weight loss surgery don't miss a beat.  Slim patients are paraded through the ads, telling how they were miserable before surgery but are happy now.  Fat people are told that if they DON'T have surgery they will die within 5 years.  And no patient even mentions anything so much as a side effect or complication.  What is not mentioned is that "for many patients, weight loss from a gastric bypass is temporary".  There are more requirements for the diet industry ads than for surgery with a risk similar to open heart surgery.

Bogus studies such as the Rand study are used to frighten people about obesity.  The following excerpt talks about a telephone survey which asked smokers about their health (have you ever heard a smoker who doesn't say they are "totally healthy" DESPITE their very unhealthy use of tobacco?).  Personnel NOT qualified in scientific data collection called thousands of people and asked 8 questions.  From this survey, the Rand folks concluded that obesity was more dangerous than smoking and incurred more health care costs than that incurred by smokers:

>>>>>The doctors also argue that, while expensive, the operations lower health costs by reducing those other problems. They point to a recent study by Rand, the Santa Monica, Calif-based research center, which found obesity creates more health costs than either smoking or drinking.<<<<<

The 'Rand Study'?  This was a telephone survey asking thousands of citizens 8 questions about their health status.  Smokers claimed better health than obese people.  This was a happy conclusion for the tobacco companies and even those in the diet industry.  Trouble is, it's nothing close to the truth, as people especially smokers, tend to ignore health problems and a silly telephone survey is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'study'.  Are the WLS surgeons REALLY "using" the Rand survey to justify risky gastric bypass surgery?  I surely hope not.

Gastric bypass surgeries will double this year again!  Publicity works!

in 2002 it was predicted that some 75,000 people will have the operation, up from about 45,000 in 2001 and 25,000 three or four years ago, according to Dr. Kenneth Jones, president of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. The ASBS.org society’s membership has doubled in the past three or four years to 500.

Gastric bypass surgery is big bucks!

>>>>>"The market for this type of surgery is tremendous," Dr Jones said (president of the ASBS).  (According to the industry publication Health Care Strategic Management, some 13 million to 16 million people in the United States are in that category (BMI 40 i.e. eligible for surgery.)  (recently there have been some attempts to lower the requirements for weight loss surgery to a BMI of 35 - this would increase the potential customer base by several thousand.

"You are seeing many doctors and hospitals set up to handle these patients. Potential profit is certainly a motive."

Jones and others worry that potential might draw doctors to the field who aren't properly trained, having been lured by accounts from some doctors who say they have doubled their incomes. <<<<<<

Hospitals want insurance to pay because they say they're losing bucks on gastric bypasses:

>>>>>>While operations cost from about $14,000 to $35,000, some hospitals say they are losing money because of insurance reimbursement and costly start-up expenses. Training nurses, psychologists and nutritionists to treat the obese takes time and money. Wheelchairs that can carry the obese can cost $40,000. Operating tables can run $90,000. Ongoing counseling is required for patients. Most insurance companies offer some type of coverage for obesity treatment, but just how much varies widely. Some insurers have yet to acknowledge advances in bariatric surgery since the operations first were performed in the 1960s, when failure rates were high and included some deaths.<<<<<  (MSNBC article)

Some large surgical groups are owned by large worldwide corporations.  For example the liv-lite.com gastric bypass group of surgeons is owned by "Zeros and Ones", a worldwide corporation with affiliations to Time-Warner and a partnership with Microsoft.  When those deciding on the marketing are NOT affiliated with the patients at all, it could become a bad situation - people become numbers to them, just dollars and cents.

We definitely need to consider legislation which will close the loophole and require those advertising surgical services to adhere to the same "truth in advertising" policies required of the pharmaceuticals.

Not knowing what they need to know BEFORE a gastric bypass, might be very costly for some patients, even costing them their lives.