Should We Put Fat Kids in Foster Care?
Dr. David Ludwig knew he was peddling a provocative idea: that children who are so obese that their lives are in danger should be placed in foster care. He just thought the debate would take on a reasonable tone. What he'd co-written, after all, was a short, sober piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association, aimed at doctors and riddled with caveats.
"I expected a spirited scholarly debate," Dr. Ludwig told me in his Longwood, Mass., office, where he directs the Obesity Prevention Center at Children's Hospital. "I did not expect this to be the commentary heard 'round the world." Ah, but this is the modern media world, desperate for clicks and powered by rants. And Dr. Ludwig's mildly worded piece hit a bundle of public nerves. Fear of government intervention. Stress about parenting skills. Concern that fat people are stigmatized, that pressure on parents has grown too great.
So, on a Tuesday night, the Associated Press released a story about Dr. Ludwig's piece, with the headline, "Should Parents Lose Custody of Super-Obese Kids?" And by Wednesday morning, the media panic/opportunism machine had kicked into overdrive...