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Extremely Obese Kids Should Be Placed in Foster Care, Lawyer Argues in JAMA

Posted Jul 13, 2011 7:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: Children who are extremely obese and in dangerously poor health should be placed in temporary foster care, a physician and a lawyer argue in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The commentary says foster care is more ethical than obesity surgery because long-term effects of the operation in children are unknown, the Associated Press reports. The JAMA article was written by David Ludwig, an obesity doctor at Children's Hospital Boston, and by lawyer Lindsey Murtagh, a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.

Murtagh told AP that foster care may be needed to protect children suffering obesity-related health problems. The goal, Ludwig said, is to educate the family to allow for reunification.

Intervention helped in the case of a 12-year-old girl who weighed 400 pounds and whose parents had physical disabilities. After a year in foster care, she lost 130 pounds and her Type 2 diabetes disappeared. In another case, a 555-pound teen placed in the home of his mother’s sister lost 200 pounds in two years.

The mother who lost custody of her son, Jerri Gray of Greenville, S.C., told AP she was glad the youth had lost weight, but “they've done damage by pulling us apart.”

Additional coverage:

JonathanTurley.org: "Harvard Professor Under Fire After Calling For Obese Children To Be Removed From Homes In Severe Cases"

Updated on July 14 to include the Jonathan Turley critique.

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