Britain may begin charging parents of obese children with neglect, Slate reports. An article published in the British Medical Journal urges the government to consider involving child protective services when parents refuse to “change their lifestyle” to help an overweight or obese child lose weight. Per Slate:
Just as failure to provide a child with proper treatment for epilepsy or another chronic illness is accepted as a reason to involve child protection services, the article’s authors note, so too should be failure to help a child who is at risk of the dangers associated with obesity.
That almost sounds like they’re talking sense: parents do have an obligation to provide their children with adequate medical care. But charging parents of fat kids with neglect seems like a pretty wide leap.
The article’s authors say neglect charges should not be based on weight, but on “whether or not a parent has made a conscious effort to change the family’s lifestyle.”
What would that mean, in practice? Would the state be monitoring parents’ family meal plans? Auditing exercise programs? Policing snacks?
There’s no question that parents play a large role in children’s eating habits, exercise habits and overall healthy living. But so do schools, doctors, public health organization and mass media.
We’ve already seen a crackdown on food industry marketing to kids. What’s next? Will doctors treating obese patients become liable for malpractice suits if their lifestyle prescriptions don’t work?