Etta James is in the hospital because of complications following unspecified “abdominal surgery” last month.
As of 9 a.m. central time, there are three articles about this that mention Etta James had weight loss surgery a few years ago. The AP article didn’t mention it. Which means a Google news search on Etta James returns 273 articles that didn’t mention it.
I wish Etta James a speedy recovery and all good things. And no, of course, I don’t know for certain that James’s recent abdominal surgery had anything to do with the WLS. She could have had a hernia or something.
Nevertheless, I feel comfortable calling this total bullshit. The chances that someone who had WLS would end up in the hospital after completely unrelated abdominal surgery are pretty fucking small.
It’s bad enough that celebrities have their viscera renovated and then lie about how they lost the weight. But passing off complications as something unrelated is just brain-breakingly disgusting. Judging by the AP article, the press release from the James camp did just that — but even so, it ain’t like an intrepid journalist would really have to knock herself out to connect the dots. Sure, you couldn’t speculate openly about the nature of the recent abdominal surgery in an AP article, but you could bloody well do what those three other journalists did and mention that she had WLS, so readers could do their own speculating. I mean, seriously, if a celebrity known to have had breast implants were in the hospital for “chest surgery,” would the former point go unremarked?
Downplaying the risks of weight loss surgery is just one more way the media reinforces that getting thin at any cost is all that matters. And it’s not just the mainstream media; it’s the goddamned medical journals, too.
In an article in the Oct. 13 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers unveiled encouraging news for people seeking surgery to reduce their weight. JAMA reviewed the results of 136 studies and found that surgery to lessen the size of the digestive tract resulted not only in weight loss but also reversed diabetes in 77% of obese patients, eliminated high blood pressure in 62%, and lowered cholesterol in at least 70%. The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ), a maker of instruments used in such surgeries.
Emphasis mine, but big, fat kudos to Business Week for noting that at all. And of course what rarely gets mentioned when studies like that trickle down to the mainstream media is that there’s no proof whatsoever that being less fat caused the reversal of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Weight loss surgery doesn’t just make you thin; it makes you physically unable to eat large quantities of food and in most cases, much less able to digest fatty or sugary foods. So basically, it forces you onto exactly the kind of diet already recommended to control diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol — the kind of diet that, absent WLS, might not make you much thinner, even if it makes you much healthier.
But people don’t stay on diets like that! And healthcare costs are out of control! So why not force the fatties to behave and save us all some money?
Well, here’s one reason:
Two years ago, the rationale that the surgery can cut down on the health-care costs associated with being obese also took a blow. A large ongoing study in Sweden found that [sic] the use and cost of drugs in obese patients to be about the same, whether or not they had the surgery. Those who didn’t have the procedure needed medication for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while those who underwent it needed treatment for gastrointestinal-tract disorders, anemia, and vitamin deficiency.
Those who undergo the surgery are also more likely to die within a few years from complications related to the surgery than they would have been from complications related to obesity. There’s that.
But oh wait, if they die young, that’s less money the rest of us have to pay for their healthcare. Not a problem, then.
(H/T Corinna from the Fat Studies list.)