“Harvard Researchers Want Fat Kids Taken From Their Homes”

Infuriating: “a pair of Harvard scholars writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association advocate stripping away the custody rights of parents of super obese children. … ‘Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child,’ said Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health. The study’s co-author, David Ludwig, says taking away peoples’ children ‘ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible.'” [Atlantic Wire]

More: Ira Stoll notes the following sentence from the JAMA piece: “Even relatively mild parenting deficiencies, such as having excessive junk food in the home or failing to model a physically active lifestyle, may contribute to a child’s weight problem.” From M.M., via social media: “I’ve never seen better evidence for that old William F. Buckley, Jr. quote: ‘I’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty.'” And Ken at Popehat examines the possibility that the researchers were just, you know, trying to “start a conversation” about the need for more child-snatching.


  • “with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible”

    After the parents are “reeducated,” no doubt…

  • And then they can be roasted and served to thin people.


  • Feeding your child until they are literally so fat that it endangers their life is child abuse. Weather such drastic government intervention is the correct solution is another question – but when snookums is crying because he can’t have his fifth baconator at age 4, something needs to happen.

  • @Bob,

    Clearly you have see a copy of my Modest Proposal…

  • Now you wonder why there are double digit tuition increases every year…? Time to audit every school and see where the money is going. Starting with this school and these “researchers”.

  • I believe the city of San Francisco’s school lunch menu nutrition guide was linked on this very blog at one time, after SF decided Happy Meals should be against the law.
    Point is, these Harvard geniuses want the same state government to feed kids 1,200 calorie lunches and then take them away for being fat.

  • Eugenics Lite! A sparking new approach for the 21st Century!

  • @Scott Jacobs “I would – I swear to god – open fire on anyone trying to take my kid away from me.”

    Obviously, Scott, your child must immediately be taken from you. Such a violent reaction shows serious anti-social attitudes crying out for modern therapy. We’ll start with copious doses of Cannabis-aroma therapy, including Meditation therapy starting with the mantra “There is no Second Amendment. There is no Second Amendment. There is no Second Amendment.” Suitable foods during Munchies Therapy will be provided as comfort. Therapy will continue until your violent impulses no longer occur, you begin each sentence with “Dude”, you closely resemble the lead character in The Great Lobowski in both appearance and personal hygiene, and you’ve learned to abide.

  • The fatness is a big (heh heh) problem in America. We are at disgusting proportions. In the past few years, I’ve seen adults zipping around Wal-Mart or the airport in little carts for no other apparent reason than they’re simply too fat to walk themselves.

    I would guess most of the fat kids have fat parents.

    Tacitus described the intense social pressure brought to bear on the tribal Germanic males who allowed themselves to get fat. Maybe we need to get back to that.

  • […] courtesy of the redoubtable Walter Olson, I saw a new instance inflaming the news media and blogosphere today: two Harvard researchers have […]

  • So, what criteria “may” make it “necessary” to take an “obese” child out of its home? Is it before or after an actual medical exam, or just a teaching assistant`s calculation of BMI (which should not be used for individuals anyway, but certainly not between birth and about seventeen years)?

    I can visualise an extreme case, which may be child abuse/endngerment, but that can be argued already. And has been, especialy for cases in which parents refuse medical treatment for their child[ren].

    I can also visualuse the kids of the Our Gang – Little Rascals” films: with the possible exception of Alfalfa, I suspect every one of them (not just Spanky) would today be classed overweight (Froggy) or obese (Darla).

  • Overlawyered is one of my favorite sites ever, and 99.9% of the time I agree with Walter Olson. But not this time.

    I don’t see what is so “infuriating” about this proposal. The language of the article actually bends over backwards to be as mild as possible (“…may sometimes be necessary to protect a child…”) and only suggests this for very extreme situations. More importantly, excessive obesity (when caused by parental neglect) is no different than any other form of child abuse, and is far more damaging in the long term than most physical beatings.

    Scott Jacobs says he would shoot anyone trying to take away his kid. Well, Scott, if your child is facing death from obesity or any other kind of abuse, exactly what would you be defending? The right to kill your own kid with food?

    I hate to say it, but the problem is now so pervasive (I have kids in middle school and see this for myself), that it definitely needs more parental awareness, and in a very few cases, actual intervention.

  • Seriously obese kids generally have a genetic issue, and have fat parents. To fully eliminate this problem we would have to ban fat people from having kids.

  • To Serve Children, sequel to the Twilight Zone’s To Serve Man.

    Seriously tho, get the govt our of nutrition cuz that’s what started the obesity epidemic in the first place.

  • John,

    If obesity is such an issue in children, why on this very blog did we find out that kids on government lunches are more likely to be overweight?

    Why is it that one school handed out scallions as a “snack” for lunches?

    Why is it that the government is constantly telling kids to get out an play, but doing everything they can to prevent kids from having the time and space to play?

    Why is it that Michelle Obama, who is often praised for trying to get kids to exercise, had a 1700 calorie lunch the other day?

    If the government wants to get its house in order, then it can start telling people how to live their lives. Until then, many Americans will be like mama bears when it comes to their children.

  • Not to mention the horror stories that Departments of Child Services (or equivalent, depending on the state) have as a record in either seizing kids at the wrong time, losing kids in the system, or acting after they have been hurt or killed, among a long list of other things.

  • How often do public health researchers publish studies which argue that bureaucrats should have less power over private citizens, instead of more?

  • If you were a bureaucrat, would you fund that researcher a second time?


  • gitarcarver,

    I’m not sure what your point is there. I agree that government makes many missteps that help contribute to obesity. But that still doesn’t let parents off the hook from taking care of their own children!

  • This latest trail balloon of a proposal concerning obese children offers insight into the future of our Nation and specifically the relationship between individuals and their Government. Are children as defined in a statistical group watching too much television or using the Internet too much? The Government solution will require monitoring family viewing and or usage. Your child score low on standardized public school test? Government intervention is needed immediately as said child is being deprived of their “Rights” to a just education. Have a family history of a specific medical condition (e.g., cardiovascular disease, bipolar disorder, cancer) being downplayed by parents? Then immediate Government intervention becomes necessary to ensure that child is not harmed in the short, intermediate or long run. Further adventures by Government agents will naturally mature age requirements and their related conditions.
    What law gives the Government such power to intervene into people’s personal lives? Well, if an individual can be compelled to purchase health insurance for the good of the collective then no individual’s behavior is beyond contact of the Government. Only dead people don’t interact with others, ergo, all human interaction is related and potentially commerce related. Come to expect Government involvement in our personal lives as the rule and not exception. The locus thus becomes the Government at the expense of the individual.

  • John,

    But that still doesn’t let parents off the hook from taking care of their own children!

    No one said it did. However the solution to remove kids from one “bad” situation into another situation which is equally harmful if not more harmful lacks common sense.

  • However the solution to remove kids from one “bad” situation into another situation which is equally harmful if not more harmful lacks common sense.

    Right, giltcarver. So please show me any orphanage or foster home in the US that allows it’s children to balloon up to deadly levels of obesity. Just one. Good luck with that.

    Hospitals make mistakes too, but are you still going to avoid one if you are critically ill?

    And John Frederick, you are really going too far here. I don’t like government intervention either, but it’s a necessary evil when children are abused by their parents. Were talking about cases in which a child’s weight threatens their life; not where kids are simply watching 1 or 2 hours too much TV per night.

  • Well, at what point does it become life threatening? Is it when the kid’s BMI exceeds a certain level? When he gets fat? When he gets very fat? What about the potential for five, ten, twenty, forty, eighty years down the road?

    I would say that if the parents are about to bury the kid in a vat of Carvel on a public highway, that’s a life-threatening situation. Otherwise, the Libertarian viewpoint is leave me the f*** alone and that’s the major viewpoint here. Is this such a surprise o you?

  • So please show me any orphanage or foster home in the US that allows it’s children to balloon up to deadly levels of obesity.

    Generally speaking, foster homes are far worse for children than being in the home of parents. Good luck if you think otherwise.

    Hospitals make mistakes too, but are you still going to avoid one if you are critically ill?

    No, but I am not going from a doctor that makes a mistake to go visit a doctor or hospital that makes more mistakes.

    I am also not going to take marriage advice from Zsa Zsa Gabor or Liz Taylor.

  • I think that taking kids away from their parents is WAY too drastic, I mean at first they should make the parents and child take nutrition classes if they ever would actually allow that. But even if they do take the child away and make them lose weight, what if they don’t? What are they going to do then? And also, taking the kids away from their parents could cause a lot of trauma and the kids might turn to food for comfort. I just think there taking it too far…

  • The Minnesota twin project called in a man who was separated from his identicla twin brother. He was raised by an Italian-American couple, and had a good life. The brother was not as fortunate and bounced around from one institution to another. The first brother had an enlarged belly nd “Pasta” and “mangia”came to my mind. But the brother had exactly the same body shape. They both had sideburns of exactly the same length and wore the same style shirts.

    My cousin Denise was “big boned” and had stomach reduction back in the 1960’s. Neither her brother nor her sister had any problem with weight.

    My stories is not a double blind study woth many subjects, but they convince me, along with observing others, that weight problems result from a mean steak in God. Certainly, blaming parents is ignorant and cruel.