What You Didn't Know About The Doctor From My 600-Lb Life

Anyone who's seen an episode of My 600-lb Life is familiar with Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, who is affectionately known to his patients as simply, "Dr. Now." According to his professional bio, Nowzaradan, a general and vascular surgeon, researched and developed cutting edge laparoscopic procedures to treat morbidly obese patients. As a result, his specialty for two decades has been performing bariatric surgery "on the most challenging weight reduction surgical candidates who have been previously denied by other surgical professionals, especially the super-morbidly obese (over 600 pounds)."

But Nowzaradan is more than just a brilliant surgeon — he's also a character. Known for his no-nonsense advice to his patients, the Iranian-born doc combines the emotionless plain speak of a clinician with his at-times broken English to create some incredibly compelling reality TV moments. Case in point: The time he shut down a patient's claim of "Well, I have to eat something," by saying, "No, you don't have to eat something, you have eaten 800 pound of food in you."

That's the Dr. Now that fans know and love, but there's much more dirt on him than the show reveals. Here's what you didn't know about the doctor from My 600-lb Life.

'Take Your Kid to Work Day' became permanent

Dr. Nowzaradan's son, Jonathan Nowzaradan, is the co-founder of Megalomania, an Austin, Texas-based production company that specializes in documentaries and documentary series. According to The Austin Chronicle, the company's first hit was World's Heaviest Woman, the story of Renee Williams, who, at 841 pounds, became a patient of Jonathan's father after being turned away by 14 other doctors.

Sadly, Williams died of a heart attack just two weeks after a successful gastric bypass surgery, but the film about her life would serve as not only a stepping stone for Dr. Nowzaradan's burgeoning TV career, but also project the mission statement of Megalomania.

"Who needs medical attention more than the patients who are high risk?" Jonathan said his father told him, adding, "We turn away people who need medical attention the most." His father's ethos also tracks with Jonathan's own goals for his films, which he says are designed "to inspire patients to act and to encourage doctors to care more about their patients than their careers."

That's why Megalomania's chronicling of the morbidly obese didn't stop with Williams' death. Simultaneously, the production house developed a series, then-titled Last Chance to Live, over a period of three and a half years. That series became the TLC hit series My 600-lb Life.

Nurse, hand me my... Oh crap

In 2017, Radar Online revealed that Dr. Nowzaradan and his anesthesiologist were sued by one of their patients, Michelle Park, in 2012. Park alleged malpractice against the doctors, claiming that during her gastric sleeve procedure, they left a "6.69 inch piece of tubing" inside her body. Park's lawsuit also states that the tubing wasn't discovered until nearly two years later after it "punctured [her] colon," which then required "the surgical removal of a part of [the organ]."

For unknown reasons, Park "dismissed" the suit, which Radar speculated could have been the result of "a top secret mediation and settlement." Although Dr. Nowzaradan's reply to the tabloid didn't seem to indicate that at all. "The lawsuit against me was dismissed because I was not the one who left the tube," he told Radar.   

The same year the 2012 suit came to light, Dr. Nowzaradan was slapped with two additional malpractice suits, according to a different report from Radar Online. In June 2017, a patient sued for $1 million, alleging that a botched abdominoplasty performed by Nowzaradan left her with a "deformed abdomen," as well as "extreme pain" and restricted movement. Nowzaradan denied the allegations, and in February 2018, his accuser filed "a request to dismiss the case."

In a September 2017 suit, which is still ongoing as of this writing, another patient claimed that Nowzaradan left "a stainless steel connecter and 29cm of tubing" inside of them. Yikes.

Did he make deadly errors?

Dr. Nowzaradan faced even more serious charges in 2007 and 2012 when the surviving family members of two of his patients sued him for malpractice, alleging his mistakes led to the death of their loved ones.

First, in 2007, Colleen Shepherd brought a suit against Nowzaradan over the death of her daughter, Tina Shepherd, whom Colleen alleges Nowzaradan failed to properly inform of the risks involved with the gastric bypass procedure she received. Tina weighed more than 500 pounds at the time of the surgery. She died one year later from "from complications of liver failure and blood poisoning," according to The Houston Chronicle. Colleen also stated in her lawsuit that Tina did not receive proper aftercare, which Nowzaradan claimed was Tina's fault.

"We called and called her to make follow-up appointments and she said she would come in, but she never showed up," Nowzaradan told the Chronicle.

Five years later, a "deceased patient's wife" filed a similar lawsuit, alleging Nowzaradan and the hospital where he practiced failed to properly assess and diagnose "the extent" of her late husband's "condition," which led to the "negligent" handling of his procedure, and "proximately caused [his] death," according to Radar Online. Again, Nowzaradan denied the claims, and a little over one year later, the case was closed after the plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss her own suit.

His marriage was not the picture of health

According to legal documents published by Justia, Dr. Nowzaradan's wife of 27 years, Delores, filed for divorce in 2002, citing "insupportability" and "cruel treatment." Dr. Nowzaradan filed a counter petition, also claiming insupportability, and thus began a protracted, two-year battle over the dissolution of their marriage.

In the end, Dr. Nowzaradan did not come out looking great, as the court "attributed fault in the breakup of the marriage" to him. The court also concluded that throughout the proceedings he had "complicated the discovery process by concealing and withholding records, obstructing discovery, asserting baseless privileges, failing to disclose essential information, denying access to records, and failing to comply with court orders."

On top of that, he was also found to have "committed waste of community assets," which the court assessed at a value of $380,0000. This all translated to Dr. Nowzaradan's financial portfolio experiencing some rapid weight loss. The court reportedly awarded Delores 70 percent of the couple's joint assets, which included the aforementioned cash, their "marital home," and a separate property — basically everything but Dr. Nowzaradan's business. Oof.

Patients' long-term success rates are abysmal

In his keynote conversation at the 2016 ObesityHelp National Conference, Dr. Nowzaradan offered some surprising insight into his approach to treating super morbidly obese patients, like the ones featured on My 600-lb Life. Perhaps the most startling fact that he threw out was that he believes the patients only reach that level of obesity because of a "genetic disposition."

Of course, this sort of flies in the face of some of the most dramatic scenes of the show — the moments when Dr. Nowzaradan confronts patients who are in denial about their eating habits. However, Dr. Nowzaradan said that the supposed "genetic disposition" or weight gain is only one factor that contributes to obesity. The other key element is the need for patients to fundamentally change their eating habits to address the specific way their bodies metabolizes food in order to keep the weight off in the long term.

Dr. Nowzaradan explained that what happens with bariatric surgery is that the patient's "metabolism changes because we manipulate one of the gastrointestinal hormones that control their appetite," and after around five years, their metabolism reverts to pre-surgery levels, which is why it is crucial for a patient to address their eating habits. Unfortunately, it is the combination of these two factors that makes for such an uphill climb, and that's reportedly the reason Dr. Nowzaradan's patients have a mere 5 percent success rate over the long-term.

He can only do so much of the heavy lifting

Though Dr. Nowzaradan also told the crowd at the 2016 ObesityHelp National Conference that he does not turn away anyone who walks through his door, there have been instances where he just couldn't help certain patients. 

One of the most memorable cases from the show was Pauline, who refused to diet, refused the aftercare for her surgery, and wound up only losing a stunningly low six pounds over nine months, according to The Mirror.

After re-admitting Pauline to the hospital in a last-ditch effort at a controlled diet, Dr. Nowzaradan discovered that she lied right to his face when she claimed she never received phone calls about getting follow-up physical therapy. At that point, he declined to treat Pauline further.

Speaking with People, Dr. Nowzaradan revealed that the Pauline situation wasn't the only time he had to throw in the towel, saying "there have been a few patients I felt I could no longer help." He continued, "If they won't stick to the program, at some point, I can longer help them and they are taking resources from someone else who needs it." 

In other words: Even a top doctor can't help someone who isn't willing to do their part.

A selfless calling

In a 2017 interview with Houstonia, Dr. Nowzaradan indicated that he sometimes doesn't earn a profit over the course of a patient's treatment. 

"Looking at the moral obligation that we've got, you see somebody who has no life who could have a life," Nowzaradan said, adding, "We don't need to be rich. We do make a living, but we don't need to worry about making a living out of every patient we see."

In some cases, even making a living is out of reach, like in the anecdote he shared at the 2016 ObesityHelp National Conference. Dr. Nowzaradan revealed that his entire compensation from the insurance company of a more than 800 pound patient was 97 cents. 

And though Nowzaradan is famous, we're not talking about a celebrity doctor here, who breezes in for a cameo then allows his staff to do all of the clinical stuff. This guy puts in hours. Dr. Nowzaradan told Houstonia that he works "12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, fitting in between 60 and 80 patients each day." 

Oh, and did we mention that as of this writing, he's in his 70s? Think about that the next time you shake your fist at an elderly person behind the wheel, because they could just be exhausted and on the way to their second or third job.