Friday, July 24, 2009

Does Having An Obese Child Constitute Criminal Neglect?

A South Carolina woman is being charged with criminal neglect because her 14 year old son weighs 555 pounds. He is currently in foster care, and she is at a loss as to how to explain his condition. "I worked two jobs so I had to buy fast food once in a while" is the only explanation she has to offer as to how this child came to be 400 pounds above his ideal weight.

A person this size must ingest over 4000 calories on a daily basis (nearly double the average intake that is used to calculate "daily value" needs on United States food labels). How was he even getting access to all this food? The woman's lawyers affirm that she was, indeed, on a limited budget so neither of them were able to buy limitless supplies of food. The boy's mother claims she kept no soda in the house and the child didn't even like sweets!

The lawyers defend her by asking how she could possibly be overseeing his eating habits 24 hours a day. "She worked; he went to school; he couldn't be in her sight every minute" [paraphrased]. Their final statement in her favor was "She loved her child; maybe she didn't say 'no' often enough".

What do you think? Are parents responsible for their child's weight? Could this child have suddenly gained 400 pounds without her noticing he was overweight while he was 10 years old or 5 years old? Should parents be forced to keep their children under (and over) a certain unhealthy weight or have their children taken away from them, given the health risks the child is certain to face in his life now?

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