Remove fat kids from home - By Michael Prager

Michael Prager, the author of “Fat Boy Thin Man,” blogs about food politics at
Jul 19, 2011 11:08 AM ET
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Remove fat kids from home

I was asked twice yesterday for my penny's worth of reaction to this story, about whether extremely obese children should be put in foster care:

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.

It's an interesting and important question, and I regret to say that the best answer I have is "I don't know." Yea, I know, amazingly sage-errific, right?

Logic does support the concept: Only the most libertarian voice would argue there is never a time when society should protect a kid who is being maltreated. And pretty solid evidence shows that obese children very often become obese adults, and that obese adults experience shorter lives with degraded health.

So the question is, how malformed a child has to be before the state's obligation for child protection kicks in. Codifying, say, a BMI cutoff would be impossible, and leaving a decision in subjective hands would always displease someone.

I have seen kids in the mall where the line sure seemed violated to me, but I sure don't want the job of deciding.

The obvious long-term answer to the problem is to not let it get so bad, but how's that going to happen? The wide incidence of severe obesity — and please remember, I was there before it was cool — has a wretched thicket of causes that nobody completely agrees on, and there's even less agreement on what to do about the acknowledged ones.

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