A court in the northwestern German city of Bremen ruled, on Monday, that short stature is not a disease, as it analyzed the case of a woman who used her health plan to be entitled to an organ lengthening surgery.
The plaintiff insisted that the company should pay for the treatment, but the insurance company argued that the smaller plan should not be covered and was not a legal distortion.
“Leg elongation alone was not sufficient to justify this invasive surgery,” the insurance company said in a statement.
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The woman claimed to have Noonan syndrome – a genetic condition that prevents parts of the body from developing. She noted that her height of 1.5 meters made her among the shortest 3% of women and posed challenges to her daily life. She also claimed that she was not viewed as a person to the fullest, which would justify the need for a height correction procedure.
Her lawyers said: “The plaintiff suffers from frequent depressive phases. She experiences deficiencies in daily life in the form of a very noisy environment.” The applicant further stated that she was rejected from an experimental training school due to her height and consequently her career choices were restricted.
What was the position of the court?
The court in Bremen upheld the insurance company’s arguments and ruled that the company had no obligation to cover leg lengthening surgery for its clients. According to the ruling, the woman’s stature does not constitute an irregular physical condition. The court also noted that the plaintiff did not seek treatment for Noonan syndrome, but instead wanted to increase height.
The difficulties a woman faces in daily life can be addressed through the help service, according to the court, and her psychological problems can also be treated with therapy.
The court further noted that exclusion from certain professions “has no bearing on the question” of whether or not health insurance should pay for the surgery.
The woman wanted a surgery that would help her reach the desired height from 1.60 to 1.65 meters. In leg lifts, the bones of the upper and lower legs are cut to implant an extension system that supplies the bones and soft tissues.
A wide range of complications that can arise with limb modification have been reported in the scientific literature, such as poor regeneration and misaligned limbs. There are still few articles published by surgeons who perform these operations for a long time, which makes it difficult to estimate the long-term effects on a patient’s health.
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