Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

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Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by oneh2obabe »

Doctors, ethicists say parents should lose custody of super-obese kids in extreme cases
Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 15 hours ago

CHICAGO - Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids' weight? A provocative commentary in one of the most distinguished medical journals in the United States argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, said the point isn't to blame parents, but rather to act in children's best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can't provide.

State intervention "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting," said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.

"Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child," Murtagh said.

But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying — things a parent can't control, he said.

"If you're going to change a child's weight, you're going to have to change all of them," Caplan said.

Roughly two million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said. But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, Ludwig said.

While some doctors promote weight-loss surgery for severely obese teens, Ludwig said it hasn't been used for very long in adolescents and can have serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.

"We don't know the long-term safety and effectiveness of these procedures done at an early age," he said.

Ludwig said he starting thinking about the issue after a 90-pound three-year-old girl came to his obesity clinic several years ago. Her parents had physical disabilities, little money and difficulty controlling her weight. Last year, at age 12, she weighed 400 pounds and had developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

"Out of medical concern, the state placed this girl in foster care, where she simply received three balanced meals a day and a snack or two and moderate physical activity," he said. After a year, she lost 130 pounds. Though she is still obese, her diabetes and apnea disappeared; she remains in foster care, he said.

In a commentary in the medical journal BMJ last year, London pediatrician Dr. Russell Viner and colleagues said obesity was a factor in several child protection cases in Britain. They argued that child protection services should be considered if parents are neglectful or actively reject efforts to control an extremely obese child's weight.

A 2009 opinion article in Pediatrics made similar arguments. Its authors said temporary removal from the home would be warranted "when all reasonable alternative options have been exhausted."

That piece discussed a 440-pound 16-year-old girl who developed breathing problems from excess weight and nearly died at a University of Wisconsin hospital. Doctors discussed whether to report her family for neglect. But they didn't need to, because her medical crisis "was a wake-up call" for her family, and the girl ended up losing about 100 pounds, said co-author Dr. Norman Fost, a medical ethicist at the university's Madison campus.

State intervention in obesity "doesn't necessarily involve new legal requirements," Ludwig said. Health care providers are required to report children who are at immediate risk, and that can be for a variety of reasons, including neglect, abuse and what doctors call "failure to thrive." That's when children are severely underweight.

Jerri Gray, a Greenville, S.C., single mother who lost custody of her 555-pound 14-year-old son two years ago, said authorities don't understand the challenges families may face in trying to control their kids' weight.

"I was always working two jobs so we wouldn't end up living in ghettos," Gray said. She said she often didn't have time to cook, so she would buy her son fast food. She said she asked doctors for help for her son's big appetite but was accused of neglect.

Her sister has custody of the boy, now 16. The sister has the money to help him with a special diet and exercise, and the boy has lost more than 200 pounds, Gray said.

"Even though good has come out of this as far as him losing weight, he told me just last week, 'Mommy, I want to be back with you so bad.' They've done damage by pulling us apart," Gray said.

Stormy Bradley, an Atlanta mother whose overweight 14-year-old daughter is participating in a Georgia advocacy group's "Stop Childhood Obesity" campaign, said she sympathizes with families facing legal action because of their kids' weight.

Healthier food often costs more, and trying to monitor kids' weight can be difficult, especially when they reach their teens and shun parental control, Bradley said. But taking youngsters away from their parents "definitely seems too extreme," she said.

Dr. Lainie Ross, a medical ethicist at the University of Chicago, said: "There's a stigma with state intervention. We just have to do it with caution and humility and make sure we really can say that our interventions are going to do more good than harm." ... 34982.html
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Re: Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by grammafreddy »

As more and more parents lose control of their own lives for various reasons (a big one is irresponsibility), there will be a louder calling for government intervention to protect their children.

It is a growing trend and one that can be easily nipped in the bud, so to speak, by recognizing the problem and working to solve the underlying issues in the child's home - before it gets to the point where the child has to be removed.

In not just a few cases, the parents themselves don't see any problem - they always have excuses for why THEY are not able to help their kids ... I have to work too much, healthy food costs too much, my kid won't eat anything but junk food, etc etc. They are not willing to admit "I am too lazy to care".

As fits with this new "It takes a city to raise a kid mentality", the taxpayers will once again be expected to cover these parents' *bleep* and intervene to save their kids' lives.

What will it take for parents to figure this all out? It is not cheaper to feed a family at McD's.

Or are we all just gonna fall into more nanny-ism?
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Re: Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by MyWorld »

I would be interested to know what is being done to intervene (and by whom) prior to removing a child from the home. I am sure a good percentage of these children (and adults) are emotional eaters so I fail to see how removing a child from their family will help with the emotional side of things. In extreme cases, shouldn't the child be hospitalized? Should the family dr's be more responsive in sending parents to dieticians to get help? Oh wait..dieticians aren't covered by MSP anymore! Doubt a poor family in US can afford such help either.
I also think the "parent's are lazy"statement is ridiculous. Sure there will always be those parents who are lazy, but come on you think every parent of an obese child is lazy? No. Look beyond the 1950s homelife...doesn't exist anymore...there is more processed foods, hormone fed foods, lack of excercise with technology, higher cost of living that wages do not match which equals parents needing to work more..etc. And, do you ever look at the grocery flyers around welfare check week? Prices are always higher and those foods that are on sale are highly processed or junk. What can be done about that?
We have to look at some real core issues...ya know beyond the "that parent is lazy".
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Re: Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by Piecemaker »

Putting obese children in foster care will not cause them to become a healty weight. Let's add a whole bunch of emotional trauma to their obesity! Some kids are obese because of certain medications, genetics and some health conditions.
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Re: Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by ohgeeze »

Not sure if this has been said, sorry I didn't read your posts. Part is within the family eating healthy yes...however if people could make more money, not have to have both parents working their butts off to make $25/hour (combined) and buy healthier food and the GOVERNMENT needs to step it up and put physical education as a priority back into the schools. You can't have gym once a week and expect children to get hooked on physical activity. Too many organized sports that once again, some parents cannot afford nor do they have the time when they have BOTH worked all day. Again the government NEEDS to raise minimum wage to equal the cost of living (stop worrying about the wealthy), abolish the MSP in BC for low income families. Wasn't there something on the news about being below the poverty level, both parents had to be working and making $18/hr...omg. I have worked for CFS and putting kids in foster homes where they can and sometimes are treated worse then you can imagine.

Lets help the families with super-obese children before we jump on the band wagon and remove their children. I agree, some parents just won't learn or listen, but you have to try.
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Re: Should parents lose custody of super-obese kids?

Post by hellomynameis »

Piecemaker wrote:Putting obese children in foster care will not cause them to become a healthy weight. Let's add a whole bunch of emotional trauma to their obesity!


Although mandatory education and doctor check-ups should be a must for these families. No one has the right to super-obese (read: super-unhealthy) children without some kind of beneficial intervention.
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