When does severe childhood obesity become a child protection issue?

Shirley M Alexander, Louise A Baur, Roger Magnusson and Bernadette Tobin
Med J Aust 2009; 190 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2009.tb02610.x
Published online: 1 June 2009

In reply: Primum non nocere means both “first, do no harm” and “above all, do no harm”. We acknowledge there may be both potential harms (the most significant being removal of the child from the family) as well as hoped-for benefits in involving child protection services in cases of severe childhood obesity. Though we strenuously oppose notification of child protection authorities as a general policy, we raised the idea that, in exceptional circumstances, health care professionals may nonetheless have a professional and legal obligation at least to consider notifying such authorities. We did so cautiously because we fear an exception becoming a rule, particularly in services such as ours where we frequently care for children very like the “child” we describe.

  • Shirley M Alexander1
  • Louise A Baur1,2
  • Roger Magnusson2
  • Bernadette Tobin3

  • 1 Clinical School, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Plunkett Centre for Ethics, St Vincent’s and Mater Health Sydney, and Australian Catholic University, Sydney, NSW.



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