Harvard Prof: Parents of Very Obese Kids Should Lose Custody
Harvard University professor and child obesity expert Dr. David Ludwig has generated controversy and outrage across the country with his claim that some parents should lose custody of their severely obese children.
Ludwig is an obesity expert at Children’s Hospital Boston and an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, and he thinks state intervention can be in the best interests of extremely obese children.
In an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ludwig wrote “In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems.”
This has generated heated responses from other experts who don’t agree with Ludwig. Dr. David Katz, founder of the Yale Prevention Center, says there is no evidence that the state can do a better job of feeding children than their parents.
Dr. David Orentlicher, of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University of School Law, also disagrees. He says we know from experience that child protective service agencies may be far too quick to place overweight children in foster care.
Ludwig says children should only be removed in the most extreme cases, and that state officials should first offer counseling and education to parents.
“It should only be used as a last resort,” he said. “It’s also no guarantee of success, but when we have a 400-pound child with life threatening complications, there may not be any great choices.”
What do you think? Should state Child Protective Services have the power to take children away from their parents and put them in foster care because they don’t think the parents are doing enough to control their children’s weight?