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Are Obese People Fit to Parent?



Yesterday’s headline in the Toronto Star was about a case where an Ontario family court judgment cited obesity as a reason for removing a child from the parental home, after determining the mother was contributing to her child’s weight gain and was oblivious to the required medical regime. The article cites other cases where obesity was a factor in rulings regarding parenting and foster care. (Click here to read the article)

The question is: can parents, who are actively contributing to their child’s excessive weight gain or are not doing enough to ensure a healthy eucaloric diet, be accused of chid abuse or neglect?

My take on this is that the situation is probably no different from other circumstances, where parents are endagering the health of their children by exposing them to potential health risks (e.g. passive smoking, not using a child seat, etc.).

Obviously the rulings will have to depend on the extent of the actual risk. Clearly, there is a substantial difference between feeding your otherwise healthy active child the occasional French fry versus letting your child with a peanut allergy enjoy a couple of nuts.

I do not envy the folks, who have to make these rulings and are called upon to decide where the limit is of what is acceptable parental discretion and what constitutes abuse or neglect.

In the end however, there is no special case for obesity – it needs to be treated like any other condition based on the actual risk to the child and on the extent to which the parental behaviour is deemed a significant contributor.

Tough call – I am glad that it is not mine to make.

AMS

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