Due to the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States, courts have begun addressing the issue of whether childhood morbid obesity is a life threatening condition, the existence of which violates states’ child abuse and neglect statutes, and warrants state involvement in the form of removal of the child from the home or termination of parental rights. Four states have thus far been presented with this question: Iowa, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania. These courts, in deciding whether or not to remove a morbidly obese child from the home, have considered the weight and overall health and well-being of the child’s parents as a relevant factor in determining whether or not the parents can provide adequate care for their child’s specialized needs.
The author focuses her analysis on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and argues that Massachusetts’s courts should deem parents’ health and well-being a relevant factor in determining whether parents are able to provide adequate care for their morbidly obese children. The prior four courts’ inclusion of parents’ health and wellbeing, including their own morbid obesity, is wholly relevant to the best interests of the child and is the appropriate standard for Massachusetts’s courts to follow. This Note analogizes Massachusetts’s consideration of parental fitness as a factor in a case involving an incarcerated parent with the issue of considering parents’ health and well-being as a factor in cases involving childhood morbid obesity. It also compares the best interests of the child standard used in adoption cases with the instant issue.
Kristen E. Brierley, FAMILY LAW—CHILDHOOD MORBID OBESITY: HOW EXCESS POUNDS CAN TIP THE SCALES OF JUSTICE IN FAVOR OF REMOVING A CHILD FROM THE HOME AND/OR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, 35 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 129 (2013), https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol35/iss1/5