As July 2013 was approaching, the school year had ended, kids were preparing to go to summer camp, adults were organizing plans for the upcoming holiday, and the American Medical Association began recognizing obesity as a disease. This was a big step for the AMA, one that created a lot of talk and controversy among the medical community.
The NY Times article, titled “AMA Recognizes Obesity as a Disease,” describes an argument, concluding that obesity is a disease and should be considered as such. In this paper, I will reconstruct the argument given by the article. Next, I will evaluate and make an objection to the argument. Then I will consider and offer a response that the supporters of this debate might give to my objection.
A condition is considered a disease if there is any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. This raises the question—does obesity qualify as a disease? The AMA certainly believes so. I have reconstructed the argument, given by the NY Times article “AMA Recognizes Obesity as a Disease,” in a form that will make clear the premises and conclusion:
P1: The AMA defines a disease as (1) an impairment of the normal functioning of some aspect of the body, (2) characteristic signs and symptoms, and (3) harm or morbidity2.
P2: Obesity fits the medical criteria of a disease, given by Premises 1.
C: Obesity is a disease.
Premises 2, that obesity fits medical criteria of a disease, is supported by the AMA’s claim that obesity is a hormonal and multi-metabolic disease. Obesity fits the AMA’s definition of a disease because,...
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...function of the human body, and ultimately leads to other diseases and ends life. If we take Premises 1 to be true, and if Premises 2 is believed to be true as well, then the conclusion the article presents is accurate. Those who oppose the AMA’s decision and agree with the view of obesity as a condition argue that Premises 2 is incorrect because obesity does not directly harm or kill people (part (3) of Premises 1). They also claim that classifying obesity as a disease will lead to a slippery slope – stigmas will worsen, preventative measures will cease, and people will be less inclined to seek treatment and make their disease known to the public in fear they will be judged. Those who support the decisions of the AMA will counteract these claims and conclude that because the characteristics of obesity closely parallel that of diseases, obesity is in fact a disease.