Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Is obesity a disability?

Asked by SuperMouse (30809points) July 2nd, 2010

The American’s with Disabilities Act considers obesity a disability. I found this article saying that doctors are fighting this designation. What do you think, should obesity be considered a disability for purposes of employment and other types of discrimination? Bonus question: Should people be issued handicapped parking tags solely because they are obese?

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33 Answers

CMaz's avatar

It is when it becomes obesity.

When their body is so “large” that not only their ability to get around is hindered, but also, their health becomes (or is) at risk due to their “obesity”.

That causing disability.

It is not an issue of discrimination, big can (and is) beautiful. But, when it prevents you from doing what normally would be something you should be capable of doing.
There is an issue that needs to be addressed.

john65pennington's avatar

I have a double answer. if the obesity is caused by a genetic defect, then yes, hand out the handicap placard and the benefits. if the obesity is caused by self-indulgence, then no benefits, no placard.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s a disability when it becomes disabling. Why would one want to be punitive at that point, whatever the etiology? A diabetic may become an amputee because he mismanaged his own disease. Would that make him less of an amputee? And if it would, where do you propose to draw the line? What about a paralyzed kid who dove into the pool after having been told not to?

LuckyGuy's avatar

What if I drink a lot of alcohol every day. I will not be able to walk straight. I can’t work properly. I can’t handle machinery. I can’t wake up and clear my head. Can I be considered disabled too – and collect social security benefits for it?
I’ll skip the handicapped space, so I don’t get arrested for DWI..

CMaz's avatar

“Can I be considered disabled too – and collect social security benefits for it?”

Yes. If the drinking has come to the point that you are no longer capable of working, due to permanent damage to your body. Kidney failure, or even of you drive off the road, crash and loose you legs.

Facade's avatar

I can honestly say that I’m not sure where I stand on this. I’m having trouble drawing the line concerning personal responsibility. I’ll just lurk

CMaz's avatar

Personal responsibility, and the lack of it, causes you to have a miserable life on very little money.

Disability and or Social Security will not provide more then the ability to live.

gemiwing's avatar

I assume we’re talking about super/super super morbid obesity? Even morbidly obese isn’t that big when you see it.

We still have a lot to learn about the human body. We’re discovering new things about something simple like weight gain that we didn’t dream of ten years ago. So, until we say we understand it all and can precisely name why/when/how obesity happens for each person- then I think the obesity umbrella works.

Larger people have trouble being hired for jobs so they need protection there too. Especially as most critics will use the “concerned for them” straw man argument.

For those so large they cannot do basic functions- such as rolling on their sides, walking etc then it is a disability and should be treated as such. They don’t get disability payments adjusted for their weight/food intake so their basic needs (larger mass needs more fuel) are probably not even being met by that amount.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Why are we so quick to say it is genetic? Most of our ancestors came from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Have you ever walked around there? You do not see anywhere near the number of obese people. One or two generations are not enough to change our genetic makeup. In France, Israel, Japan most of the poeple who are obese are American tourists.
How is overeating and lack of exercise different from my example of drinking?

gemiwing's avatar

@worriedguy I didn’t see anyone in this thread saying genetic beats all. My personal point is that there is much we still don’t know. The other countries you’ve mentioned are gaining obese people quickly as western food catches on.

One needs food to survive- alcohol (in most cases) is not required to ingest. One would still be considered disabled if alcohol caused their disability (liver failure) so I’m confused by your comparison. Are you making the argument that someone who develops liver issues from drinking shouldn’t get disability, therefore obese people shouldn’t either?

SuperMouse's avatar

@Facade I agree with you, I am not really sure where I am on this.

nikipedia's avatar

@dpworkin has it, as usual. A disability is a disability. It doesn’t matter if it was your own stupid fault, someone else’s, or no one’s. We all have basic human rights and deserve to live and be supported by each other if we cannot support ourselves.

And this “personal responsibility” shtick about obesity is getting really old.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Facade and @SuperMouse Me too. However, I saw a series of programmes recently on the issues that are crippling the NHS. The first was alcohol abuse, the second was girls that get pregnant at a very young age and the third was obesity. These three things drain the NHS of resources, money and precious time at the expense of people with less self inflicted ailments or injuries. The obesity programme made me sick because many of the people that they focused on were getting gastric bands on the NHS whilst still stuffing their faces full of junk food and not taking any of the doctors advice on helping themselves. I’m hoping those people are in the minority and they just picked the worst of the worst for the TV programme.

Yes, obesity may be a disability but does that mean that, if it is self inflicted and he person in quetion does nothing to help themselves, that they should get treatment and surgery free of charge?

SuperMouse's avatar

I have to admit that I get frustrated when my boyfriend has to push from the outer limits of a parking lot (he has to go way out there to have room to get his ramp down) as I watch people whose only disability seems to be their morbid obesity climb out of their cars taking up all the handicapped spaces – especially when there is rain or snow. But @nikipedia‘s point is a good one, people deserve support and basic human dignity no matter the cause of their disability. Like I said, I am torn on this issue.

nikipedia's avatar

@SuperMouse: Another point that keeps coming up on these obesity threads is that some people have “hidden” disabilities… keep in mind that some of the people you’re seeing taking up parking spots may have heart defects, joint problems, etc.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It can be a disability, certainly.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@gemiwing I was just pushing the point. We need to start being responsible for our own actions. If I became disabled due to liver failure because of years of excessive drinking, why should the rest of society pay for that. I did it. I should pay.
I do believe a fair amount of obesity is that way too. Sure there are cases where it is genetics or drugs. But the statistical prevalence should be the same in Europe as it is in the US. People exercise in Europe. They control portions. Look how few obese people there are in DC. @JLeslie can tell you. Now go out in Virginia and there are plenty. That is not genetics or drugs. That is the consequences of life choices.
Take responsibility for your actions.

SuperMouse's avatar

@nikipedia I do my best to remember that. I admit to incredible frustration though when the only place with room to let down the lift is so far away from the door. If there are five spots not too far away and all the handicapped spots are taken, we still have to go waaaayyy out to the boondocks to have room. If the person in the spot can get in and out of the car without needing extra space I don’t think it is too much to ask them to take one of those other close up spots. I also get frustrated by the number of able-bodied young people who quite obviously borrow grandma’s placard to ensure themselves a prime spot at the movie theater.

@worriedguy what if the fellow with liver failure is now sober and has taken control of his life and is managing his disease? Should we help him out? I mean if society provides support for no other reason, it might help him stay sober. That guy at least deserves some credit for attempting to take control of his problem and turn his life around – even though his disability is still there. I think that at some level I have less patience with folks who remain morbidly obese with no change of habit or even surgery to help fix the problem.

Facade's avatar

@SuperMouse Concerning your response to @worriedguy: My mind always goes to the fact that they should have never let their drinking (for example) get out of control to begin with. But I’m somewhat of a hardass when it comes to people (including myself) creating their own issues.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Facade coming from a family crammed full of alcoholics, I think I tend to consider alcoholism, or any addiction for that matter, a disease. This is why I cut someone dealing with addiction a little more slack. That can of course lead to questions about whether issues with food can be considered an addiction. I’m telling you, this question really challenges me!

Facade's avatar

@SuperMouse The initial question challenges me as well. But shouldn’t a person who knows alcoholism runs in their family stay away from alcohol, therefore eliminating the chance of them becoming an alcoholic?

SuperMouse's avatar

It is a disease. It is kind of like knowing ovarian or breast cancer runs in your family, you can do exams, see the doctor, get the mammo’s but sometimes it just turns up. Also, there are many things to be addicted to from shopping, to exercise, to gambling, just because one doesn’t drink doesn’t mean one has totally dodged the addiction bullet.

Facade's avatar

That’s not the same. Alcoholism can be prevented by not drinking alcohol.

SuperMouse's avatar

But addiction cannot necessarily be prevented.

Facade's avatar

… I don’t know how much more simply I can say this. You won’t become addicted to alcohol if you never drink it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Facade That’s how I look at it, too. I am concerned that our society can’t afford to take care of everyone. If we have to prioritize and draw a line somewhere. Where you draw it depends on how much money our society has to spend.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Facade my point is that alcohol is not the only thing one can become addicted to. Of course a person who has alcoholism in their family should be responsible enough to stay away from the stuff, but the fact is that there are plenty of other addictions that can wreak havoc in one’s life. Some of the things one can become addicted to are not easily avoidable such as shopping. Granted, shopping will not directly lead to liver failure or any other physical disability, but, it could cause homelessness, etc. and require the same compassion and humanity we need to show for those with physical disabilities.

mattbrowne's avatar

At some point, yes. It’s a serious illness ruining the body. It needs good treatment. And the affected people need our support.

CMaz's avatar

Food can also be addictive.

mattbrowne's avatar

@perspicacious – In some cases courts do view extreme obesity as a disability.

Here’s some background information:

“The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) provides that employers covered by the statute may not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability with respect to employment matters. One type of claimed disability that is increasingly the subject of litigation is obesity. Although courts initially were reluctant to recognize obesity as a qualifying disability for purposes of ADA protection, courts are increasingly willing to consider obesity as a disability giving plaintiffs status to raise ADA claims.

Increasingly, however, courts are taking ADA claims based on obesity more seriously. In a 1993 case arising out of Rhode Island, for example, the federal court concluded that, although simple obesity probably would not qualify, morbid obesity caused by a physiological disorder would be a disability entitling the plaintiff to ADA protection.”

Response moderated (Spam)
ahro0703's avatar

Well, hi . Obesity is of course unhealthy, but I think it isn’t a disability.

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