Thursday, July 21, 2011

Physicians: Some good, some bad and some just plain "Quacks"!

Proposal to take obese kids from their parents is ridiculous

Tendency toward extremism as a solution to society's problems a troubling one

Instead of taking obese children away from their homes, parents should be educated on health and nutrition. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, The Journal, File, Calgary Herald; Postmedia News

Somebody always seems to want to take kids away from their parents, for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, the children who really should be removed from their homes are, inexplicably, left there and their names inevitably turn up later at fatality inquiries.

Then, there is much harrumphing about stressed-out, over-worked social workers with huge caseloads.
Remember the inordinate amount of time wasted some years back on the Mennonite parents in Aylmer, Ont., whose kids were taken away because they admitted to spanking them? Nearly a dozen police cars showed up at their home to remove the children, who were well-cared for, with not a mark on them, and who kicked and screamed as the authorities carted them off to foster care, like so many puppies in need of new homes.

The children were eventually returned, but how much permanent psychological damage was done to them in the meantime?

And remember Phoenix Sinclair? This little five-year-old from Fisher River, Man., was tortured literally to death by her mother and her mother's common-law husband. The latter would shoot her with a pellet gun and choke her until she blacked out; Phoenix was made to eat her own vomit, denied food, beaten and finally left to die on a basement floor where she had struck her head in falling after a beating. Her two tormentors were convicted of firstdegree murder in December 2008. Phoenix had spent most of her tragically brief life in foster care, but was returned to her mother anyway. After she died, child welfare authorities didn't even notice she was missing for nine months. So, tell me, please, how stressed-out, overworked social workers, who overlook children in real danger and waste their efforts on those who aren't, will find the time to include in their already staggering caseloads the nine per cent of children whom Statistics Canada says are obese?

Two researchers have put forth just such a proposal in an opinion column that appeared this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors," the pair wrote.
 I am always shocked at the cavalier manner in which these suggestions turn up in the media. Were these people never children themselves? Don't they remember how it felt to be eight years old, when your parents were the gods of your small universe and the thought of losing them or being separated from them invoked terror?
Dr. David Ludwig, of the Children's Hospital in Boston, and Lindsey Murtagh, of the Harvard School of Public Health, think obesity should be a reason to snatch kids and stick them into foster care.  
When you're dealing with a vulnerable little individual whose whole world is mommy and daddy, you need to have a very good reason for turning that world upside down, or you're just going to inflict emotional damage on them that will do its insidious work through the teen years and on into adulthood.

The authors give a nod to the psychological effect, but think it's the lesser of two evils: "Although removal of the child from the home can cause families great emotional pain, this option lacks the physical risks of bariatric surgery." Whoa - nice choice for the child. Have your stomach bypassed or kiss mommy and daddy goodbye.

This tendency toward extremism as a soluton is troubling.
"Sometimes, it is easier to take a child out of the home than take the time and resources to provide the right solution to the problem," Dr. David Orentlicher, co-director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University School of Law, told ABC News.

He's right. How about educating the parents on nutrition and health, on how to lose weight, how to shop for food, and other such basics? How about laying it on the line to them that if they feed their children junk food and the kids pile on the pounds, they will be ruining their children's health for life?  If you put obese children into foster homes, the emotional damage caused may simply lead them to eat even more for solace in their ordeal.

Besides, if you can take obese kids away, what's to stop you from removing kids who are merely overweight? That bar can always be lowered - and it will be. Nor is there an endless supply of foster homes. Just where do Murtagh and Ludwig think these kids will go?

And what's next - taking kids away from parents who let them play too many video games?  When other people don't raise their children the way the "experts" think they should, reasons can always be trumped up to take those children away. We just cannot go there.

Besides, if any kids should be removed from their homes, I have just the demographic in mind - the adult children still living at home into their late 20s, 30s and beyond. Come and get 'em.