The rising prevalence of obesity represents a health care crisis. As the gateway to the health care system, the emergency department is the clinical setting where the difficulties posed by the care of obese patients are heightened. These difficulties include the increasing burden of obesity-related illnesses, the challenges posed in diagnostic evaluation and treatment and the known barriers to access to care seen in this patient population. The limitations posed by obesity on care in the emergency department, the one guaranteed access point for medical treatment, creates a series of ethical dilemmas for emergency physicians and the facilities in which they practice. This article will discuss how a combination of virtue and narrative approaches can guide an ethical framework to address the dilemmas posed by the care of obese patients in the emergency department.



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