As doctors warn more patients that they should lose weight, the advice has backfired on one doctor with a woman filing a complaint with the state saying he was hurtful, not helpful.
Dr. Terry Bennett says he tells obese patients their weight is bad for their health and their love lives, but the lecture drove one patient to complain to the state.
"I told a fat woman she was obese," Bennett says. "I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.' "
He says he wrote a letter of apology to the woman when he found out she was offended.
Her complaint, filed about a year ago, was initially investigated by a panel of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, which recommended that Bennett be sent a confidential letter of concern. The board rejected the suggestion in December and asked the attorney general's office to investigate.
Bennett rejected that office's proposal that he attend a medical education course and acknowledge that he made a mistake.
Bruce Friedman, chairman of the board of medicine, said he could not discuss specific complaints. Assistant Attorney General Catherine Bernhard, who conducted the investigation, also would not comment, citing state law that complaints are confidential until the board takes disciplinary action.
The board's Web site says disciplinary sanctions may range from a reprimand to the revocation of all rights to practice in the state.
"Physicians have to be professional with patients and remember everyone is an individual. You should not be inflammatory or degrading to anyone," said board member Kevin Costin.
Other overweight patients have come to Bennett's defense.
"What really makes me angry is he told the truth," Mindy Haney told WMUR-TV on Tuesday. "How can you punish somebody for that?"
Haney said Bennett has helped her lose more than 150 pounds, but acknowledged that the initially didn't want to listen.
"I have been in this lady's shoes. I've been angry and left his practice. I mean, in-my-car-taking-off angry," Haney said. "But once you think about it, you're angry at yourself, not Doctor Bennett. He's the messenger. He's telling you what you already know."