Weight Management

Obese Children: Should the State Intervene?

July 13, 2011
CHI Health


Obese Children: Should the State Intervene?

A commentary out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests extremely obese children should be removed from their parents’ custody. The piece, penned by a Boston obesity specialist and a Harvard lawyer, argues that placing these children temporarily in foster care may be more ethical than other options, such as obesity surgery.

An early AP report quotes the author, saying that, “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.’”

The article goes on to describe one of the author’s patients who first came to him as a 3-year-old girl, already weighing in at 90 pounds. Just last year that same patient was 12 years old and 400 pounds. The state intervened, placing her in foster care where she has proceeded to lose 130 pounds through “moderate physical activity and three balanced meals a day.” She remains in foster care today.

Reaction has been mixed in the few hours since JAMA published the commentary. So … we’re curious – do you think this is a good suggestion?

  • Should states intervene to get these children – and, in many instances, their families – the help they so desperately need?
  • Or do you think the suggestion goes too far, unfairly blaming parents for circumstances that aren’t entirely within their control?

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