When a terminal cancer diagnosis finally came, Ellen Maud Bennett was given only days to live. The 64-year-old of Victoria, BC, spent them eating lobster and shrimp-wonton soup and boasting, "I look so good for someone almost dead!" Her much-lauded obituary published this month, however, called out something that had been eating at her: "the fat shaming she endured from the medical profession." After years of feeling unwell, "no one offered any support or suggestions beyond weight loss," the notice reads. Shared online, it quickly resonated with many. "The medical community sucks for heavy women," a Twitter user wrote, per the Guardian, noting, "I was told I just had to lose weight for over a decade before I was finally diagnosed at 43 with a degenerative genetic condition."
Advocates say stories like these aren't unique. "Lifestyle has the ability to both treat and prevent a ton of medical problems, but the only one we seem to moralize about is obesity," a co-founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute tells the Canadian Press, pointing to studies showing obese people receive third-rate testing and treatment. There's also evidence that people avoid medical assistance due to anxiety over weight shaming, says Michael Orsini, who's studying policy implications of weight stigma at the University of Ottawa. In her obit, Bennett put forth her dying wish: "that women of size make her death matter by advocating strongly for their health and not accepting that fat is the only relevant health issue." (A new Netflix show is accused of body shaming.)