Sunday, February 17, 2008


I will post at length about this topic later, but I want to open it up with a preliminary statement:
Having children undergo bariatric surgery is a bad thing. It's irreversible (even the banding becomes irreversible after a while), and growing young people need to absorb their nutrients for proper development of their bodies and brains.

There are very, very few, if any, situations where a child needs to undergo bariatric surgery to save his or her life--where it is such an emergency that they cannot wait until they are old enough to make a proper decision and give informed consent.

Is there anyone out there who cares about this issue? Or am I lone voice on this matter? I want comments, lots and lots of them, telling me how you feel about this!

I will discuss this after collecting some opinions from others who are interested in this topic.


Kristin said...

I think that performing such surgeries on children is horrifying, particularly as it is mostly for cosmetic reasons. It reinforces the idea to children that their worth is dictated by their physical attractiveness. Moreover, it prohibits them from ever having a normal relationship with food and eating.

Mary said...

You are not alone.

I am uncomfortable with any cosmetic surgery in children who are not severely disfigured. I think surgeons should wait until teens are at least at the age of consent. I think ethical ones do.

When it comes down to it, though, other cosmetic surgeries are not as dangerous as bariatric surgery. They do not have a 2% perioperative mortality rate (within 30 days of surgery) 6% mortality within a year. They do not cause beri beri, with permanent neurological damage. They do not cause peripheral neuropathy. They do not limit the amount of fluid one can drink when exercising or feverish, promoting dehydration. They don't cause chronic vomiting and malabsorbtion of what does stay down.

These surgeries are extremely dangerous for even adults, but adults have a right to mutilate themselves if they want.

Parents should not have free reign to mutilate their children for the sake of appearance. Hell, I oppose circumcision on this ground. And circumcision doesn't cause devastating malnutrition which can stunt growth and result in lifelong neurological damage.

I think we're on the same page here. :)

Margaret said...

It is incredibly horrifying.

I actually have a possible vitamin absorption issue (due to a malfunctioning digestive tract), and it SUCKS. To subject a kid to that, on an even worse level than what I'm dealing with, is just awful in so many ways.

Andee said...

YES, YES, YES. I completely agree with you. This is a barbaric thing to do to a kid. Even if s/he wants the surgery. Maybe especially if s/he wants the surgery.

*I* probably would have wanted the surgery from the time I was 12 or 13 or 14 -- it will get me to stop eating so much! I'll be skinny! I'll be pretty! I'll have a boyfriend! A BOYFRIEND WHO LOVES ME!!! Where do I sign up? And I wasn't even "obese" then, just chubbier than what was considered "pretty," and I wanted "love" SO BAD, and I was utterly convinced that it was my fat ass standing in the way (noooo, it had nothing to do with the fact that no boy I had ever met then was capable of loving me the way I dreamed of, fat or thin).

It's likely that my parents would have said no, though -- not because they were so fat-accepting but because they would have been squicked by the nutritional-deficiency thing. Which is why ALL parents should say no to this for their kids. Some things just ain't worth it, even if it will get your kid invited to prom.

Andee (Meowser)

Bekbek said...

Every time I see anything about this, I think about how my mother wouldn't let me get contact lenses until I was sixteen, because she was worried I'd be careless and damage my eyes. The funny thing is, I was one of those twelve going on forty types of kids! I think about my niece and nephew, heck, most of the kids I know, having to take fourteen or more supplements every day, carefully eat four ounces over a half hour, stay on a liquid diet for weeks at a time, or any of the other restrictions and care activities, and I just laugh. Half the kids I've ever met are still getting into the idea that they have to shower daily now that they have real grown up sweat glands. I have adult friends that can't keep up with the supplementation regime and have developed tremors due to lack of vital trace nutrients. This is an adult with fully developed brain and nervous system, I don't even like to think of the havoc this could cause in a developing body, and how likely it is to happen since kids can be so absentminded.

Anonymous said...

I'm disturbed by adults getting this surgery, so it's obvious how I feel about it being used on kids.

Heck, I'd go even far enough to say it's child abuse.

Rebecca said...

You're not alone. The idea of depriving CHILDREN of the calories and nutrients they need to GROW and DEVELOP... it's beyond horrifying. My dad wouldn't even let us diet until we were adults, because having our bodies and brains develop healthily and properly was more important than conforming to the societal ideal. I wish more parents thought that way.

Although, I don't think you can blame the parents in all cases. I've read about parents who were told by their doctors: "Your child will not live to see their 18th birthday unless they lose weight". If you're told that as a parent, and nothing else you've done to get them to lose weight has worked... well. That's why it's so important to get the message out there that fat does not equal death.

Vive42 said...

bariatric surgery is bad enough, doing it on children is downright evil. possibly the worst part is that people delude themselves into thinking they are doing something that will help the health of their child when in reality they are risking the child's life.

although, honestly, i hate the stuff about losing weight for health reasons. because i think that people do believe it when they say it's important, but they also use it to mask the fact that they usually want the person whose health they care so much about to lose weight for appearance reasons much more than the health reasons they go on and on about.

RaisinCookies said...

It's brutal, barbaric, and yes, child abuse. No child is in a position to give his/her consent to such a thing, and no parent should be allowed to.

Just because children are in a parent's care doesn't give that parent control over the child's body. I do not own my children. I do not have the right to mutilate them for aesthetic reasons.

Kira said...

I agree with everyone else's comments here. How could ethical doctors even consider conducting an elective surgery on children that will reduce their ability to absorb nutrients? Kids are still growing and need all the nutrients they can get. Wait until they're a) done growing and b) old enough to give consent, and even then make sure they fully understand all the risks associated. I, like Meowser, would probably have jumped at the chance as a teenager, deluding myself into thinking that it would solve all my problems. Of course, it wouldn't have, and I imagine that the sudden realization that the Fantasy of Being Thin was just that - a fantasy - would have been difficult in those turbulent teenage years.

Jen said...

I'm with you. They're uneccesary, scary, dangerous and should under basically no circumstances be done on children!

vesta44 said...

Anyone who thinks bariatric surgery is a good idea for kids should have to read every damned post at OSSG_gone_wrong on Yahoo groups. I signed up for it because of a couple of problems I've been having with my failed VBG from 10 years ago. Makes me damned glad a VBG is what I had and not some of the other surgeries that were available then (and even more glad that the ones available now weren't available then). There are people on that group dying from malnutrition, and you know what they're told by their surgeons? It's your fault, you're noncompliant. Surgeons say this is a tool, not a magic cure-all (but that's not what a lot of them were told when they had the surgery). This doesn't just make me mad, it enrages me. These are adults and fully capable of making their own decisions for their own bodies (they have to live, or die, with the consequences and should be fully informed of all possible complications, but we know how often that happens). For an adult to make that decision for a child is not loving and caring for that child, it's out-and-out abuse.

Mercurior said...

any unnecessary surgery upon anyone under the age of consent, is abuse.

mumboj said...

This epitomises how unbalanced the obesity hype has gotten, the 'cure' is now the real disease.
Until the people that we trust with our lives, medical professionals come out squarely and unequivocally against this mutilation of children, we cannot in all good conscience completely blame the parents. They should protect their child but they are under the influence of those abusing their power. It goes to show how intrisincally debased and irresponsible this hate is, as the people that are stoking it up suffer nothing, the children, everything.

If you are worried about the mobility or health issues of those children at the higher end of the weight range, why not bring them into the physiotheraputic discipline, learn about them and their bodies, keep them mobile that way. The lack of objectivity and balance is a shock, usually doctors do everything they can to keep the body as intact as possible.

First do no harm is guidance and warning.

onceupon said...

OF COURSE it is horrible and an unacceptable practice to inflict bariatric surgery on children.

I doubt you are the only person to care about this though you may be the only person writing about it TODAY. It's come up all around the fatosphere at various times.

Fatadelic said...

Bariatric surgery performed on kids is just plain WRONG. Why does there even need to be this debate? Growing children need nutrition, and their bodies should not be mutilated. FAT. IS. NOT. TRAGIC. Death or illness from an unnecessary surgery is. (Funnily enough, I believe the same about fully-grown adults, too - but at least adults can consent.)

Callicebus said...

When a parent cuts a child as a punishment for misbehaving, this is considered child abuse. When a parent mutilates that child's digestive track as a punishment for being fat, this is considered responsible parenting.

This makes me cry every time I read it. My mother tortured me with diets all of my life, and eventually accepted that I was going to be big whether eating or fasting. What happens when these parents realize the same?

Brian said...

THANK YOU. More than anything, we need a community that has the courage to say this, irregardless if some pre-op or post-op might find it upsetting to hear. Thank you. This darn sure is important.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this. Kids should not have this surgery at all...but of course parents are going to allow it if the kids want it and the Drs are willing because society tells them their kid is going to die if they don't lose weight...and as a parent I can say it chills me to the bone to think of my child dying before me...but I don't think I would ever condone this surgery at any rate.

Harpy said...

I also agree that this is mutilation of children must be stopped. There is no child so fat that they must have most of their GI tract removed.

"But what about those 300lb eight-year-olds!!!", the fatphobes cry. Sorry, but no young child is 300lbs without some kind of underlying medical condition, and also they're exceedingly rare.

The soultion is not stomach amputation, the solution is caring medical professionals that treat the actual problem. The solution is parents and teachers fending off the bullies. The solution is supportive friends and family. The solution is public education that fat is not some unendurable horror. The solution is a society in which fat does not equal shame and death. The solution is human rights and respect for all.

Stefanie said...

WLS on kids initiated by parents is really bad. But what scares the skin off of me is that some social service agency will try to convince a judge somewhere that a fat child should be taken away from the parents and made to undergo WLS. To my knowledge this has never happened, but it's the next step.

Sandy said...

What is tragic is that the bariatric industry has been actively working to gain approval for bariatric surgeries on growing children and teens. The exhorbitant risks are known; the life-long, long-term ones we can only imagine, but by all evidence to date are frightening. Worse, the bariatric surgeons are targeting young people who have been most victimized by fat discrimination, depressed, and have been scared into believing they'll die unless they have these surgeries. But, in fact, no child dies "of fat" but they do from these surgeries. I wrote about this on Feb. 11th and hope the fat community will work to oppose these surgeries in children and help them.

AnnieMcPhee said...

This IS important (and I can't wait until you write more about it!) You are most certainly not alone. I tend to use the word horrified a lot, but my God, a lot of things DO horrify me! This is one of them. A big one.

I did finally hear the reasoning the other day, on some stupid show (probably on the all-fat-hatred channel, DHC) - what they said is that it is the children who have the greatest chance for "success" with weight loss surgery, and that the older the person who undergoes it, the lesser "success" they have. In other words, NO these kids are not dying of fat...but they WILL. And by then it'll be too late for the surgery to have the utmost effect.

But my God - children are *growing.* Their brains are developing. If you remember that story about the four adopted kids in NJ a few years ago who were being starved, you'll remember that they were all quite stunted in growth and well below the heights they should have been. Malnutrition/starvation *stunts your growth.* Bariatric mutilation is enforced malnutrition. Why on earth would it be a good thing to purposely malnourish children? This is madness.

Then there was that woman who got her 11 y/o daughter the high-volume liposuction (we all know that story) and tummy tuck - at the time she swore up and down that the girl wasn't a compulsive eater. She did that because that would be a contraindication for the surgery. A year later she hauled the kid off to Mexico (to cut through the red tape, like psychological evaluations) and explained that her daughter WAS in fact a compulsive eater. Mememememe Roth was asked about this, and about abuse...Meme said it was abuse. Oh, not the mutilation or cutting the red tape - she said it was abuse that the kid was fat to begin with.

To make matters worse, I saw that girl on yet another show where a fat girl of 12 was desperately seeking a high-volume liposuction (with her mom's full support.) The girl who had been hauled to Mexico for bariatric surgery? Was brought on the show to COUNSEL this 12 year old and encourage her to get the surgery, and how great it was to be thin (which she actually really isn't.) All of this? It's flat-out ABUSE. There is no other name for this. I don't entirely blame the parents, because they are also being sold a bill of goods in this fat-hysteria; they're told their kids are going to die, blah blahdeblah. The parents are certainly culpable, but so are these doctors who are deliberately violating the Hippocratic oath and killing people with their deadly surgery. I'm not one for banning voluntary things for adults, but I couldn't see being unhappy if stomach amputation were finally banned.

Then there was another documentary called "The 467 pound girl." She was 17, and yes, she had the surgery. She was very sick after - most food made her feel ill; she couldn't even go into a supermarket without being sick. What did they do? Tell her she wasn't losing weight fast enough. Because all she could get down was things that were a little starchy, etc. The kid lost 100 pounds in a year, and they still weren't happy. Oh, THAT sounds real healthy.

Thing is, even after surgery you apparently have a certain window to lose weight - after which it's passed, you won't be losing anymore. So you have to lose it quick. Great surgery there.

And...rather than make a whole book here I'm gonna go post a story on my blog that has just broken my heart. See ya later, and can't wait to see more of these posts!

Anonymous said...

it's hard to believe that people do this, never mind consider it... but i've never understood circumcision, either.

i really don't feel parents should make irreversible body modification decisions for their children, in any regard. this goes for circ, for piercings, for surgeries (including 'routine' ones like tonsillectomies), for anything. yes, you are responsible for your kids when you are the parent. that body you made is on loan to you, to care for until it's true owner can take full responsibility him/herself. that's a lot of weight to carry.

i can't understand why anyone who's read potential complications of bariatric surgery would consider it for their kid(s)... but i am amazed all the time by the depth and the breadth of our nation's knee-jerk hysteria when it comes to weight, health and especially fat issues. it's so ridiculous it would be laughable, if it weren't so deeply damaging to so many.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Hal, I did have my son circumcised - but it was 18 years ago and I truly got bad advice in the hospital about it. They told me all the same tired old crap about how it was more hygienic, there could be problems if it weren't done, etc.

If I had it to do over, I wouldn't. It's a cruel surgery, done without anaesthetic - if you watch the videos of poor innocent newborns being strapped down and cut, then going basically into shock - oh boy. Bad bad stuff. Yes I know they don't remember it - so what? Cutting off a working organ is just madness.

AnnieMcPhee said...

Now that they're doing surgeries on kids, I am just waiting to hear all the news about the deaths (suicides, malnutrition, etc.) and about how their bones are so brittle and calcium-deprived that they are shattering pelvises and breaking hips as the ripe old age of 20. If they survive that long. This is bad bad bad news. Bad.

Thorny said...

PLEASE address this. I keep wanting to, and keep meaning to, but it makes me so upset - torn between fury and despair - that in short order I'm doing little but frothing and raging and it's all just wild gesticulation and flecks of spittle flying everywhere.

The only coherent thought I can manage about this subject is that if we were discussing a parent taking a child in to have a healthy part of their body removed for ANY REASON besides ZOMG TEH FATZ!!!, that parent would be hauled in for child endangerment/abuse charges so fast, it wouldn't even be funny.

As far as I'm concerned, it's downright criminal to do such a thing to a child. Simply CRIMINAL.

AnnieMcPhee said...

I lost all my upper teeth due to this stupid shit - to being misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia when in fact it was a severe calcium deficiency. I HATE myself in pictures because there I am with a huge fat face (fat gained mostly through NOT eating more than two bites of food per day and drinking vodka cocktails to become barely mobile) - a face that is redder than most people's. TREAT the illness FFS - diagnose it!!! Stop acting like fat or laziness is the problem! STOP killing children who are fat by cutting out their stomachs! Argh.

Anonymous said...

I belive considering Bariatric surgery or Lap-Band surgery on children is a form of child-abuse. It's parents willingly dictating that their child should be crippled from a lack of healthy vitamins ect. Just because they are not thin.

I think this is a sign of parents taking their problems, and putting them onto their children. I don't think they'd be so happy if their child ended up with a form of retardation, cause their brain never got the nutrients it needed to grow. Simply cause a child is fat, it should endure what is basically a digestive system lobotomy? What's up with that?

Mercurior said...

but its all for the sake of the children.. to coin a phrase.

and won't somebody think of the children... These phrases justify the abuse of children in the search of perfect little children.

aebhel said...

The fact that there's even a debate about this is pretty sickening. If you starve your child, that's child abuse. If you cut your child, that's child abuse. If you take your child to a surgeon to have their stomach mutilated in such a way that they will never, never, for the rest of their lives, be able to eat normally that's...good parenting?

My parents fed me. I consider that good parenting, and I would assume that most sane people agree. Apparently, I would be wrong.