20 July 2011

Should parents temporarily lose custody of their morbidly obese kids? Absolutely

Recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. David Ludwig in an opinion piece wrote that morbidly obese children should be temporarily removed from their families to protect them from life threatening health issues. He goes on to say that it is the ethical choice. I'd like to state my opinion on this issue with one word, absa-fucking-lutely.

Now with my powers of foresight let me address what I think will be the most common objection. Of course if the child has some sort of medical/glandular problem and is receiving treatment the child would not be taken away. It would only imply to cases of neglect. And yes, I think feeding your child a diet that will lead them to immediate health problems such as asthma or diabetes and eventually to an early death is just as bad as a malnourished diet.

Lets be clear, no one is suggesting that state officials go door to door with a scale tracking down obese children... that would take much too long, I suggest traps with sweets inside set near fast food joints. Taking the child away from their parents will only be in extreme circumstances and only temporarily so that the child can drop some weight and the rest of they family can receive some education on nutrition and exercise.

Now for the people who claim they work three jobs and don't have enough time to pay attention to what their kids eat, or who can't afford to eat healthy, then you shouldn't have had a kid in the first place. You didn't have enough foresight to see the needs of a child, why should you be fit to maintain custody? I know people don't like the government telling them how to raise their kids, but I don't know how you can think putting a child at risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death is not a situation in which a line should be drawn.

While I am a vegan and for those that will listen, I prescribe a vegan lifestyle, this issue goes beyond that. It is possible to be a healthy omnivore (a secret I'm reluctant to admit). With that being said, I believe that a vegan diet is the most beneficial diet. Beyond that, when did becoming healthy become a political issue. Everyone should be pissed off when the government (big business) lies about what is best for us. Whether it is the dairy industry claiming that dairy is good for you or Monsanto claiming that GMO soybeans are good for you it is important that we take nutrition into our own hands. You should be angry if there are not healthy food choices in your area.

I am a big believer in self reliance. Unfortunately children need to rely on their parents. If you have let it get to the point that your child is morbidly obese, then you have failed at being a parent and state help is needed.

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act's definition of child abuse and neglect at a minimum, refers to "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents imminent risk of serious harm". I know that parents are not force feeding their child, it is the neglect and failure to do anything about the problem. The kid wouldn't be placed in foster care if the parents took nutrition and cooking classes and got the kid more active with regular visits to a doctor.

There have been cases of children dying from being morbidly obese. It is becoming more clear that an obese child is in "imminent risk of serious harm."

California, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas have all had court cases to determine if morbidly obese children were victims of abuse or neglect. The California case was never heard because the child died. The court ended up charging the mother with child abuse through inaction. In every case besides the California one, the child was temporarily removed from the home and placed in foster care. All states minus California reached the decision that the children were neglected. Those states expanded their statutory definition of medical neglect to include morbid obesity.

I believe in extreme cases of morbid obesity it is the right thing to do to temporarily place the child in a foster home. The parents should be required to take health and nutrition classes and when the child is returned to them they need to have regular checkups with a doctor. If no progress is made, then the child should be removed again.

Peter Godoy | @petergodoy
Peter lives in San Diego with two animal companion cats, Gremlin and Mila, and has no plans to ever leave America's Finest City. He was vegetarian for a couple months until he saw the light and became a vegan. Animal rights has become his passion. Peter enjoys reading vegan blogs and cooking vegan meals. Follow Peter on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/yourdon