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Obesity on Death Row

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder just in how many ways the obesity epidemic is affecting so many aspects of our health, economics and social interactions. Here is perhaps the strangest story that I have heard so far:

According to Terry Kiney of the Associated Press, an Ohio death row inmate blames prison food for making him too fat to be executed humanely.

Richard Cooey is scheduled to die by lethal injection Oct. 14 for killing two University of Akron students in 1986.

His attorneys said in a brief filed Tuesday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the state is partly responsible for Cooey’s physical problems that might make his death unnecessarily painful.

The appeal says his obesity could make it difficult for the execution team to find a viable vein for lethal injection. 

You never stop wondering….

Edmonton, Alberta

p.s go to Yoni Freedhoff’s Weighty Matters for a picture of me (and him) after our single bypass!



    Dr. Sharma, as you know, obesity by itself is not a block to placing an IV. All that is necessary is what (as you know) is called a “cut-down.”

    For those who are not aware how this is done, a small amount of local anesthetic is administered over a vein, and a small incision is made to expose it. Then, the IV is placed. Ordinarily a single or two sutures are applied to close the incision after the IV is placed.

    The procedure is virtually painless, except for the installation of the local anesthetic.

    The only problem I can see with this is that physicians (like myself) cannot legally perform a cut down, because we cannot be a part of ending a patient’s life.

    However, a non-physician can be easily trained to perform this procedure. It is not necessary for a physician to actually teach a technician. This could be done with a film of the procedure.

    This is not “brain” surgery.


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  2. A timely story, Arya, as yesterday as I was donating blood I wondered (not being trained in needles) how much harder it is to find a vein in an arm if there is more subcutaneous fat at the inner elbow (the “crelbow” as my husband calls it – crook of the elbow). But then again, some veins are hard enough to find at any weight (I’m definately case in point- ouch)! What kind of training to nurses and doctors receive in their general courses about ways to do these sorts of procedures on obese patients? Again it comes down to the reccuring converation about improving the scope of training.
    I also wonder about the donating chairs – they are quite hard to climb into. I see the bed in the picture here has steps – but the bed itself looks quite narrow. The straps on the bed also may not reach around an obese inmate. This is actually something to consider in many arenas – for example measuring tapes to waist circumfrence, and children’s swings in plagrounds.
    There should be no barriers like this to donating blood or recieving the best health care or being active (or perhaps even to getting “justice” as declared by some US states).

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  3. Good day Dr.Sharma,it is unbelievable how obesity is sweeping around the world at what seems to be terrible pace.If it had crept up from behind, like a unknown undiscovered disease, I would understand the despair.Its as though no own has seen all these people getting bigger.Haven’t teachers seen the kids there teaching and noticed?What about the preacher in church,what as he done?The family doctor where has he been all this time?
    When my wife and I researched to peronally find out what we should do to help ourselves out,we realized how alone we were.We have been working on finding the problem with obesity before the solution and we have discovered a lot.
    Keep up the good work and we look forward to recieving more info from you through your blog.Again thank you .Pierre for Pierre&Pierrette.we have a blog at

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