by Kevin Coupe

The issue of childhood obesity comes up here on MNB a lot. But there was a Slate story yesterday that offered a different kind of perspective on the problem.

In Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, officials made the decision last month “to remove an eight year-old boy from his family's home last month because they considered his mother's inability to get the child's ballooning weight under control a form of medical neglect ... Tipping the scales at over 200 pounds, the third-grader more than triples the 60 pounds that government growth charts deem a healthy weight for boys his age. He is at risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure.”

According to Slate, the child’s situation came to light some 18 months ago when his mother took him to a local hospital because of breathing problems; he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which “can be caused by excessive weight.” Case workers
monitored the case for a year and a half, then decided that the child was in “imminent danger,” and took the eight-year-old away from his mother, a substitute elementary school teacher who says, “ "Of course I love him. Of course I want him to lose weight. It's a lifestyle change, and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that. It is very hard, but I am trying."

A hearing is scheduled for next month, on the child’s ninth birthday, to determine next steps in the case.

Slate writes that “although two million US children are extremely obese, including 12 percent of Ohio third-graders ... this is the first time anyone in the state can recall a child being taken from a parent for a strictly weight-related issue.” And the story quotes the Cleveland Plain Dealer as reporting that the boy in question “is an honor student and participates in school activities.”

Is this the inevitable result of a nation that has become obsessed with the obesity crisis, but doesn’t seem able to really do anything about it? Is government being unnecessarily intrusive? Or doing its job, protecting the life of a citizen who is unable to protect himself?

The situation is troubling. Though I’m not sure precisely why.

But it is Eye-Opening that we’ve reached this point.