Obesity, Parents, and Legal Assignment of Blame

Childhoood Obesity News has been looking at some examples of child removal in English-speaking countries. In 2015, Australia got on board with the concept that the parents of dangerously obese children can be criminally charged with neglect and abuse, and lose their children to state custody.

For Inquisitr.com, Aric Mitchell wrote about a pre-teen boy who weighed 240 pounds, and a teen girl whose “waistline was greater than her height.” Both were removed from parental control.

At the same time, experts reminded the public that child obesity results not just from parental negligence but from broader problems that seem to have turned the entire globe into one gigantic obesogenic environment, turning both children and parents into victims.


In Australia, a Department of Human Services spokesperson told the press that “obesity may be a symptom of other issues that could place a child at risk or harm that would warrant child-protection involvement,” and assured parents that such severe intervention could not be expected to come into play based on obesity alone.

Meanwhile in Great Britain, the parents of an 11-year-old boy were arrested due to “suspicion of cruelty and neglect of their obese child.” The 5’1″ boy weighed 210 pounds with a Body Mass Index of 41.9. Local officials had guidelines to work with, including “the child’s weight increasing disproportionately to age and the parents failing to take action.” The parents were released on bail and, after further investigation, were not prosecuted.

Around that time, a self-described “mindset and motivation weight loss master” called Steve Miller came to the attention of the English masses. He proposed legislation that would give the parents of a dangerously obese child three warnings, or chances to improve. Failure to improve could lead to a charge of child abuse and two years in prison.

Miller made the same point that other concerned leaders have also made. If a child were dangerously underweight the authorities would surely step in and do something — so why should the reaction to a morbidly obese child be any different? In publicizing his ideas, Miller did not mince words:

Show me a fat kid and I’ll show you a miserable, bullied child. Yet almost always it’s the fault not of the child but of their lazy, misguided parents who are often too fat themselves…. They should know better than to stuff their kids’ faces with junk food and fizzy drinks.

[I]f they are making them obese they are endangering their child’s welfare and need to be punished.

In Miller’s view, school personnel, medical professionals, and even social workers are too reticent about sounding the alarm about an obese child because they are afraid to offend parents. After extensive discussion, the proposed Child Obesity Act apparently fizzled into nothingness.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood Obesity Is Child Abuse, Court Says: Could Be Used To Take Your Kids Away From You,” Inquisitr.com, 06/25/15
Source: “Obese boy’s parents will not face prosecution over his care,” BBC.com, 06/30/15
Source: “Over-feeding the Kids?,” Express.co.uk, 07/20/15
Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images on Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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