“United” in Discrimination?

Recently, bloggers here at DiabetesSelfManagement.com have written a lot about weight, diabetes, and discrimination. Jan Chait took an argument over insulin for Type 2 diabetes as an opportunity to discuss weight discrimination, which seems to be commonplace even among medical professionals. David Spero, on the other hand, focused on the role that discrimination may have on diabetes independently of someone’s weight: By raising stress levels, discrimination may hinder blood glucose control and even contribute to developing diabetes — possibly both Type 1 and Type 2 — in the first place.

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So last week’s announcement of an obese-passenger policy from United Airlines is sure to generate some negative feelings. The airline, which until recently was the last major airline not to have such a policy, announced that if a flight is full and a passenger is deemed to be too large, the passenger will be “bumped from the flight” and moved to a later flight that is not full. The passenger may instead choose to buy two seats or a first- or business-class seat on a later full flight, or to receive a full refund.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, a self-described “fat flier” who was interviewed about the policy showed support, expressing his own discomfort with being crammed next to someone. A woman interviewed in the article, who was obese until she had a gastric bypass operation, noted that it was humiliating when a passenger seated next to her would ask to be moved. No one in the article expressed outrage at the new policy (possibly because most airlines have similar rules in place already).

Have you ever had trouble on an airplane or with an airline because of your weight? What do you think airline policy for large passengers should be? Leave a comment below! (You can also voice your opinion in a poll on the Web page of the Tribune article.)

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