How many must die?

Six months ago I posted about Obera, yet another dubious method for making fat people thin. First what I said then:

 Obera is a silicon balloon inserted into the stomach and left in place for 6 months and is promoted as non-surgical, non-invasive (though how having to be sedated in order to have the balloon inserted qualifies as non-invasive beats me), non-permanent, and no incisions. The “non-permanent” part is correct because as with any such effort the weight loss is not permanent. 

If you go to their site, way down at the bottom in tiny print is the following.

Important ORBERA® Intragastric Balloon System Safety Information:

  • The ORBERA® Intragastric Balloon System is a weight loss aid for adults suffering from obesity, with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 and ≤40 kg/m2, who have tried other weight loss programs, such as following supervised diet, exercise, and behavior modification programs, but who were unable to lose weight and keep it off.
  • To receive ORBERA® you must be willing to also follow a 12-month program, beginning with the placement of ORBERA® and continuing for 6 months after, that includes a healthy diet and exercise plan. If the diet and exercise program is not followed, you will not experience significant weight loss results; in fact, you may not experience any weight loss.
  • Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, so you will be supervised throughout this program by a team of physicians, physiologists, and nutritionists. This team will help you make and maintain major changes in your eating and exercise habits.
  • ORBERA® is placed for no more than six months. Any time that the balloon is in the stomach for longer than six months puts you at risk for complications, such as bowel obstruction, which can be fatal.
  • Some patients are ineligible to receive ORBERA®. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and will also perform a physical examination to determine your eligibility for the device. Additionally, at the time of placement, the doctor may identify internal factors, such as stomach irritation or ulcers, which may prevent you from receiving ORBERA®.
  • You must not receive ORBERA® if you are pregnant, a woman planning to become pregnant within six months’ time, or breast-feeding.
  • Complications that may result from the use of ORBERA® include the risks associated with any endoscopic procedure and those associated with the medications and methods used in this procedure, as well as your ability to tolerate a foreign object placed in your stomach. Possible complications include: partial or complete blockage of the bowel by the balloon, insufficient or no weight loss, adverse health consequences resulting from weight loss, stomach discomfort, continuing nausea and vomiting, abdominal or back pain, acid reflux, influence on digestion of food, blockage of food entering the stomach, bacterial growth in the fluid filling the balloon which can lead to infection, injury to the lining of the digestive tract, stomach or esophagus, and balloon deflation.

And if at the very bottom of that page you follow their link to full safety information, you find this - a lengthy PDF meant for physicians detailing the procedure and adverse events and complications. Do take a look.

So what we have here is another device, like the Aspire Assist, which is basically a device which works by inducing bulimia without the messiness of vomiting. And though less drastic than the various and sundry bariatric surgery procedures, nevertheless it physically assaults the fat person’s body, causes pain and other unpleasant side effects and which can kill the patient, all in the name of eliminating fat. Procrustes’ dream!

Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed. Procrustes, whose name means "he who stretches", was arguably the most interesting of Theseus's challenges on the way to becoming a hero. He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed. Myth Web

In The Fat Lady Sings, I write:

The two most obvious choices for a fat woman are either: 

1. Lie on the Procrustean bed and literally, through bariatric surgery, have herself cut down to size, or figuratively try to do so through constant dieting and food deprivation, or

2. Become defiant and embrace being fat, revel in being fat with the same verve that she previously hated her fat and her body. 

That was last spring. In the last few weeks the cost of Obera is revealed: Five deaths related to weight-loss balloon placement since 2016: FDA

Already 5 dead. Does the FDA withdraw approval? No. They suggest that doctors closely monitor patients. So 5 deaths are not enough, not when making people thin is the higher priority.

What does it mean that so many of us are willing to be tortured this way, that the desire to meet the cultural standard for appearance is so strong that we are wiling to risk death to achieve it? And what does it mean that fat is so reviled, so repugnant to so many that the incentive is there to develop these instruments of torture and inflict them upon us?


© CHERYL FULLER, 2010. ALL  RIGHTS RESERVED.