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Stomach Surgery More Acceptable?

In this morning's Washington Post health section, reporter Sandra Boodman tells the story of Andrew Burrill. By the age of 15, Andrew was 5'4" tall and weighted 260 pounds. "There were times when I felt I just couldn't go on," he told Boodman.

Andrew tried everything to lose weight: diets, exercise programs, "fat camps." He's not unlike many of the teens that our team of reporters, videographers and editors profiled in April in Young Lives at Risk: Our Overweight Children.

What has changed since then is an initiative for insurance companies to finally treat childhood obesity as a disease and cover treatments for it.

And new since that package is a revelation from Boodman's article this morning: Doctors -- well-respected pediatric doctors at that -- are no longer opposing bariatric surgery in teens if the circumstances call for it. Both the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration are studying weight reduction surgeries. Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is recruiting a bariatric surgeon. Even David Ludwig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Boston's Children's Hospital and one of the nation's most prominent obesity experts, has altered his opposition to the surgery. Writes Boodman:

For carefully selected patients who have been treated consistently with other methods and failed, Ludwig said, surgery with appropriate safeguards may be an option. But, he warns, these operations are neither a solution to an urgent public health problem nor a panacea. Bariatric surgery, he said, "can result in horrendous complications, require repeat surgeries and create a whole new set of medical problems."

Many readers to the story today have weighed in against such surgeries.

Writes onebrightmonkey: "Not to be insensitive but this kid is young enough to sweat the pounds off on a treadmill without risking his health. If the Mom can afford elective surgery then she can afford a trainer and a gym membership for her son. Working the pounds off would be the best thing for his self-esteem and his long term health."

A few, though, have argued the opposite view:

"Certainly surgery of this kind is extreme, particularly for minors. However, diets and other methods do not always work short term or long term. If this procedure helps the patient for the long-term, then it ought to be covered by insurance for promoting preventative medicine. It is better than the long term costs for diabetes II and other medical concerns," wrote kerryberger.

What do you think. If your child was extremely overweight and you and he had exhausted your options in getting the weight off, would you consider surgery?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 24, 2009; 11:43 AM ET  | Category:  Health
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"Every child is an individual." Jezebel3

Posted by: anonthistime | February 24, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I think this is one of those decisions that's made within the context of the parent's experience.

I have had success dealing with my weight since I was a teenager and I would probably have stuck with behavioral/diet changes in dealing with my own child if they had such a problem (I did give my son the book "eat this not that" for Christmas).

If the Brills have dealt un-successfully with their own weight they might have a different viewpoint about how they son could/should deal with his own issues.

I say that because it would not surprise me if young Andrew was not the only person in the family with dysfunctional eating habits.

Hopefully after this help to lose a lot of weight Andrew will get with a healthy diet and not have any more problems.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 24, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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