The �1 million pound 70-stone man

HEALTH experts have today defended the world's heaviest man after it is believed more than �1 million pounds has been spent on his care.

IPSWICH: Health experts have today defended the world's heaviest man after it is believed more than �1 million pounds has been spent on his care.

Paul Mason from east Ipswich, who has been 70-stone at his heaviest, is today undergoing life-saving surgery in a last ditch attempt to save his life. One health expert said the operation _ a gastric bypass _ is his only hope of surviving and relieving the taxpaying public of the burgeoning health care costs.

With a team of NHS carers helping him around the clock, plus the weekly benefits he is believed to receive, it is thought he has cost the state in excess of �1 million in the past 15 years.

On Wednesday the morbidly-obese 48-year-old was taken to Chichester's St Richard's Hospital, in Sussex, in a St John Ambulance vehicle to cater for obese (bariatric) patients. He has been closely followed throughout the process by a TV crew who are filming a Channel 4 documentary about his life and the risky surgery he needs.

Doctors claim there is a very high risk that Mr Mason may not survive today's operation but it is the only option he has left.

Dr David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said it would be essential for some sort of psychological work to have been done with him before the operation.

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He said: “In order to save him and save the costs to the taxpayer, everyone should rejoice that he is getting this operation.

“This operation is about his weight _ it will not change his brain. It will not stop him compulsively eating. He would have needed to have cognitive behavioural therapy beforehand.

“The operation is expensive and the post-operative care is expensive but it could potentially change him into a healthier, productive individual.

“Surgery will be a big trauma and he might not make it. When someone is this size, it is a terminal illness. He may well still have heart failure after the operation because he won't lose the weight immediately.”

The issue of Mr Mason's care has prompted a lively debate among Star's readers, with some outraged that the taxpayer should fund his treatment, while others saying he has a medical condition and there is no other option.

All the authorities dealing with Mr Mason's care _ NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council _ are refusing to comment on his case.

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IT is believed Mr Mason has a compulsive eating disorder and addiction to food, which are psychological issues that will not be solved by surgery.

Michael Kelleher, a lecturer in health and wellbeing at University Campus Suffolk, said: “Sometimes, with people who have got that compulsion to eat, it is not as easy as saying it is within their control.

“There would be some sort of psychological issue there. It is about finding out what triggered this. Some of the issues around obesity stem from early childhood problems.”

There are claims that Mr Mason spoke of his ambition a few years ago to become the world's heaviest man. This bizarre quest is not surprising to Mr Kelleher, who claims that people's addictions often take over logical thinking.

He said: “We all want to be good at something and this is something that he has been recognised for in the past. He may have been the heaviest man in Britain, then wanted to go on to be the heaviest in Europe … and then the world.”

A gastric bypass is a procedure which involves making the stomach smaller, thereby meaning the patient cannot eat as much. If they try, they will be sick.

The operation, believe to cost in the region of �20,000, creates a small stomach pouch and bypasses part of the small intestine to make the digestive system shorter, although nothing is removed. This means only small meals can be consumed and the body absorbs less food.

The surgery will be carried out by one of the leading gastric surgeons, Shaw Somers, who has been nicknamed the 'fat doctor' because of the thousands of gastric bypasses and gastric band operations he has performed.

Mr Somers famously helped fix Anne Diamond's botched gastric band operation and is one of only half a dozen surgeons to specialise in obese surgery.

As Mr Mason, who is claimed to be the largest patient to have this operation, will need a general anaesthetic and this will cause an increased risk to his heart.

Dr Haslam said: “He may well need to be in intensive care after the operation. There is more of a risk of complications. Everything is more risky because of his weight with the anaesthetic and the great strain on his heart.”

After the operation, he will have substantial skin-fold which can be removed by a plastic surgeon and this would usually be done privately.

This operation comes after years of battling with his weight, which has steadily increased.

It has been reported that Mr Mason lost weight while he was in jail in 1990 after allegedly stealing from letters when he was a postman in Ipswich.

In 2002 firefighters had to demolish the front wall of Mr Mason's former home in Ipswich so a fork lift truck could get inside and lift him out when he needed a hernia operation.

Although he managed to shed 20 stone in 2006, his weight ballooned again and the following year, he complained to the council that his 3ft-wide wheelchair could not fit through the gates of the Orwell Country Park.

He took part in a documentary in 2006, in which he stated: “You've got to change your mindset when you've got a food addiction. You can't have treats.”

Since then, he is thought to have been confined to his specially made bed, while consuming up to 20,000 calories a day. Carers have to do everything for him, from bringing him breakfast to cleaning up after him. He also needs plenty of medical attention, including a physiotherapist to stretch his legs and prevent deep vein thrombosis, and district nurses who dress his bed sores.

One reader, known as BW, said: “Why should the public fund this, when he got to this weight deliberately so that he could claim the title of the heaviest person in the world?”

Graham Mark added: “I personally would ensure that he is gradually fed less and less, and forced to undertake mental treatments as well as a good dieting course. Let's get him back to a decent size and back to work.”

Amber Spener said: “Why should we fund an operation to save his life when he's clearly not done anything to help himself?”

Last year Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service were asked by the ambulance service on six occasions to assist them to move obese patients. The fire service do not move the patients but support the ambulance service by using fire service equipment to allow the patient to be removed from the building by the ambulance crews. This cost the fire and rescue service around �9,000 during 2009.

Gary Phillips, interim deputy chief fire officer said: “The movement of bariatric patients is not the responsibility of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, however, we do have an agreement that we will assist our colleagues in the ambulance service in order that their crews can move them.”

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