Is Obesity a Form of Disability?

Defining a disabled person is easy.  By the definition of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is a person who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities."  Disability could be the lack of limbs, senses such as sight, and even the inability to express one’s self.  However, would a person with immensely excessive weight be considered a disabled person?

There is a growing debate on whether obesity should be classified as a form of disability.  According to the American Obesity Association, an obese person may cause little or no inconvenience of a person’s career, but a disability may occur from obesity.  Severe cases, for instance, can inflict bodily pain and affect normal daily activities.  Morbidly obese people may find their ability to perform their occupation so compromised that they become qualified for disability.  This means that they may be entitled to receive disability payments from the Social Security Administration under that claim of having muscular or skeletal complications.

Recently, the American Medical Association voted that obesity should not be considered a disability, believing that not all obese people agree on the matter and that it would put physicians at risk of being sued or reprimanded for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act if a patient feels offended when the doctor discusses about their obesity.

However, San Diego-based Obesity Law and Advocacy Center claims that the AMA is completely missing the point, explaining that a disability label from a social security benefits point of view has different criteria compared to a disability label from an insurance point of view or what is classified under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  According to OLAC, no two obese persons are alike.  One may have health issues that are serious enough to be considered as a disability, while other may not even qualify as disabled.

In a country where two out of three adults are either overweight or obese, obesity is a touchy subject in the United States.  Many obese people, for instance, protested over proposals from airlines that they should pay double the amount of air fare.  Meanwhile, a number of cities such as Oklahoma City, as well as local government offices like the Ohio Highway Patrol, have established programs to improve people’s health and weight.

But until the federal government could decide with finality on whether obesity be labeled as a disability, both doctors and patients should strive their best in promoting for better health.