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The Associated Press reports on an opinion piece that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association almost certain to generate a lot of debate.

David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, and Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health, wrote an op-ed piece suggesting that the parents of extremely obese children ought to lose custody of their kids, at least temporarily.

Roughly two million children in the US would fall into this category.

State intervention "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting," Ludwig says.

Adds Murtagh, "Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child.”
KC's View:
The AP says that Ludwig and Murtagh are not alone in this belief, that they join “a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.”

This is a tough one.

I have to admit that my first reaction is negative - that this seems like the ultimate in government intrusion in people’s personal lives.

On the other hand, I’m intrigued by this line in the story: “University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying - things a parent can't control, he said.”

Maybe that’s true, but the fact is that parents are supposed to be there to protect their kids from these kinds of things, or to help their kids be autonomous and self-sufficient and make intelligent decisions. If kids are eating themselves into illness and disease, parents do bear responsibility.

But does this mean that the government ought to take kids away from their parents?

I find it hard to wrap my head around this one.