Weight Loss Surgery for Children: How Good an Option?

The New York Times recently ran the article Young, Obese and in Surgery which spoke about the sharp rise in weight loss surgery, with particular reference to children undergoing weight loss surgery. The obesity epidemic is a reality, and obese children are another; however is weight loss surgery something that parents should even consider for their child?

While the overall percentage of the surgeries such as lap-band, bariatric and other weight loss procedures among individuals younger than 21 years of age is only 2%, there have been instances of children as young as 12 being subject to this drastic weight loss aid.

The arguments against weight loss surgery on children and adolescents are many:

The long term effectiveness is in question

The fact is that we still don’t know exactly how surgery such as this pans out for an individual; even an adult and whether they suffer significant ill effects in the longer term as a result of the surgery.

It is also true that this is not a magic potion that will do all the hard work for you. There is still a considerable amount of lifestyle changes that will be required to be made.

How a child’s developing body will respond to the surgery is another question

There is the obvious fact that this is a pretty drastic procedure for anyone and how it can impact a still-developing and still-growing body is a big question mark. The procedure essentially changes the anatomy of a child and how this change will affect the rest of his or her life and future health is moot.

Also obesity in a child is less likely to be life threatening; the way it can be for an older adult so the question begs to be asked, what’s all the rush about! Weight loss surgery is supposed to be the last resort, when all else has been tried and found to have failed. In the case of a child, it is unlikely that everything possible has already been tried and found wanting!

Parents are responsible for what the child eats and does

What is cooked in the home, the kind of food that is purchased and brought into the home, the sort of restaurant frequented by a family and how much scope for activity a child has, are usually issues that a child has little or no control over.

And it is these factors that determine how overweight or obese a child will be; so it is the parents who should be held responsible. A parent opting for weight loss surgery for their child could, in a sense, be seen as abdication of that responsibility.


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