As the Western world gets fatter and fatter, the solutions to slimming it down get ever more draconian. In Britain yesterday, the government issued guidelines saying "children under the age of 5, including babies who can’t walk yet, should exercise every day." Today, in the States, a pair of Harvard scholars writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association advocate stripping away the custody rights of parents of super obese children. They're for real!
"Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child," said Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health. The study's co-author, David Ludwig, says taking away peoples' children "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible." Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital, said his eureka moment was when a 90-pound, 3-year-old girl entered his obesity clinic a number of years ago," reports Lindsey Tanner at the Associated Press.
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.
But not so fast! The academic world isn't in agreement. In response to the JAMA article, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan is pushing back in a column for MSNBC. Here are his sticking points: