ASMBS Statement on Recent Story in The New York Times
While we cannot comment on the specific allegations raised in a recent news story related to a public hospital system in New York, The New York Times in its reporting did not provide an accurate or balanced picture of the safety and effectiveness of metabolic and bariatric surgery, also referred to as weight-loss surgery. Scant evidence was provided for the allegations presented, notable facts were glaringly omitted, and bias against weight-loss surgery, treatment and obesity permeated the article. Stories that inaccurately portray or distort the benefits and risks of surgery do a disservice to patients who may otherwise benefit.
To be clear, weight-loss surgery has proven to be safe and the most effective and durable treatment for patients with severe obesity that leads to significant weight loss and the prevention, improvement, or resolution of many obesity-related diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. It has been performed since the 1950s and since that time has undergone an unprecedented transformation from a high-risk surgery to one of the safest operations in the world – comparable to appendectomy and gallbladder surgery and safer than knee replacement. For many patients, the risks of surgery are far less than the risks associated with obesity and related diseases. Patient selection is based on a number of criteria outlined in evidence-based guidelines and many insurers, including Medicaid, require these criteria be met before approving the surgery, which is only performed on about 1% of eligible patients each year, making it one of the least utilized effective treatments in medicine.
Most weight-loss surgeries across the nation are performed in accredited centers which undergo an independent, voluntary, and rigorous peer evaluation in accordance with nationally recognized bariatric surgical standards and continuously focus on quality improvement. For comprehensive and accurate information about weight-loss surgery, patients should visit ASMBS.org and consult with their doctors about the risks and benefits and whether weight-loss surgery is right for them. News stories do not provide the complete picture.