NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 1, 2005

The British nationalized health care system has decided to halt knee and hip replacements to overweight people in at least one part of Great Britain.

  • Obese people in East Suffolk are to be refused hip and knee replacements, even if they are in terrible pain, as a result of healthcare rationing.
  • Specifically, a woman 5' 2" who weighs 168 pounds or more or a man 5' 10" who weighs 210 pounds or more would be ineligible.

And it's not a question of surgery being denied for clinical reasons:

  • Although hip and knee replacements are less likely to be successful in overweight patients, Dr. Brian Keeble, director of public health in Ipswich, has been clear that the motive behind the decision is primarily financial.
  • The trusts need to get rid of an $82.7 million deficit, and apparently believe fat people are fair game.

Such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in the same way as liver transplants. In those instances where obesity is impeding surgery, the excess weight should be seen as a temporary hurdle the patient can overcome with support, rather than another $17,300 saving to celebrate, say observers.

When making these difficult judgments, it is important for primary care trusts to remember that fat people pay taxes too. After all, it is one thing to insist everyone should be required to give a portion of their income to fund services they may not use (such as education or improved transport networks), it is quite another to demand people pay for a service they will be denied when they need it, say observers.

Source: Amy Ridnauer, "Fat People Lose Access to Some Surgeries as Cost-Saving Measure in Britain's Government-Run Health System," Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog, November 28, 2005;

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues