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Two airlines (Westjet & Air Canada) have instituted policy to clarify the service that the Canadian Supreme Court says they must offer. The legal decision from last November is that an obese person, because they are disabled, should be given two seats for the price of one. On January 8 the Canadian Transportation Agency ordered the airlines to make extra seating freely available to disabled and obese travellers who require it. The original thinking of the disability law was that a disabled person's nurse/attendant should be permitted to accompany without paying the second fare.

The airlines decided that they had to rein that in. Who requires it? Anyone who thinks they do? In that case, I am obese, because I want the extra seat. No, you have to have an objective criterion, and the airlines do not want to be in charge of that. Yet they MUST separate out those who are legally entitled to an extra chair from those who just want one.

If your airline must give two seats to every fat person who wants one, pretty soon you're making half as much money running your airline. So the airlines announced in order to be considered disabled by your obesity, you must present a note from your doctor. The obese people don't like it because they say it is humiliating. And the doctors don't like it either. Through a national organization the doctors say the policy shows "a disregard for the use of scarce medical resources." The medical association said it plans to write the airlines asking that they "immediately revisit their requirements for doctor's certificates." The docs say that the question of when a person is obese enough to require two seats is a "business matter".

So is it that Doctors can't afford to write a note for someone who's obese enough to be uncomfortable in an airplane seat? Or doctors don't want to? I bet they don't want to. The new forms created by the airlines ask the doctors to measure the size of the obese individual's posterior. Seems reasonable enough, but nobody wants to do it. Maybe that will save some revenue for the airlines.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
interesting, eh? we had a patient who wanted one of our docs to write her "permission" to be exempt from required cpr cert at her workplace (a blood work type lab) due to her being unable (read too fat). she'd asked me to go get this sig. from the doc, i returned that i felt she needed to discuss this with the doctor. but, wouldn't she expect someone to revive her if she needed assistance? to which she said -- but, it's hard for me to get down on my knees...... and so you'll just stand there and watch a patient in need? i asked.
end basically of the conversation.
i was psyched when the doc came in and had the same questions i did. after dr. h said "so you'll just watch?" she added, that's just not acceptable -- take your cpr course -- help out.

though when flying it would be nice not to sit beside the person who's flowing over into the space alloted my butt....
Feb. 1st, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Well I"m glad you talked that lady into taking her CPR class. Seems like people will try anything to get out of embarassment and discomfort, except for dealing with the cause of it...
Feb. 1st, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
That is unfair. Obesity isn't a disability, unless it is to the point it has wrecked both knees and back so they should have to pay (and hopefully have the option) of wider seats.

Its not an issue that is going to go away any time soon, as we have lost the skills to know how to make cheap healthy food.

eg. It is rare now, in suburbia, to see people actually use their gardens to produce food. I have a 1 person garden which I spend about 2 hours a week in - 1 hour weeding, 1 hour watering. I work full time and have extra activities, but I still manage. Of course, it is still relatively new, so hasn't produced much, but once it does, my vegetable bill will go down substantially.

People use the cost and time as an excuse not to eat healthily...
Feb. 2nd, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Good for you growing some food! It is amazingly easy to grow food here. I threw the seeds in the ground, watered and weeded once a week, and had produce all summer long. Now I don't have a garden spot anymore, though. Maybe I'll get involved in a community garden....

The obesity/disability issue is a huge hot button. Last time I posted about this issue several obese advocates came after me. I wonder if they're about to slam me on this one. Check back in a few days to see! =-]
Feb. 2nd, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
It is a huge debate and a huge issue. Especially when they limit the criteria to BMI only. (I am a huge advocate of waist measurements as it is a much better indication as far as health goes, plus you can usually eyeball whether people have a a lot of central adiposity or not.)

It will be interesting what the future brings, because with it there is also a certain amount of stunting apparently starting to happen with children eating adequate energy dense but low nutrient foods. Plus osteoporosis happening in 20-30 year olds as they limited their milk intake and stuck to diet soft drinks (always so bad for bones!)

And iodine deficiency is starting to become a problem again. We are supposed to be living in developed countries, but the old nutritional problems are becoming issues again, along with obesity...
Feb. 2nd, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
Here's another story regarding obesity - in children this time:

Feb. 1st, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
In 50 years, I doubt if flying or obesity will be major issues.

I am overweight. I'm about 150 and 5'2". It really is a set point for me. It takes a lot of effort for me to go up or down. However, if I found I couldn't fit into chairs or theater seats, you can bet I would get help. I know people who have fought back from morbid obesity. It causes so much suffering.

Feb. 2nd, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
You're so right. Nobody will be flying unless they are rich or government, and the obesity epidemic will be over, in 50 years.

I understand about set points and how people can get to a weight that they have a really REALLY hard time changing. I get it. I've struggled with it myself. Our society doesn't help.

The alleviation of suffering would be a decent argument for allowing obesity as a disability, as the Canadian supreme court has. I wonder where that slippery slope might lead...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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