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Children who are extremely obese and in dangerously poor health should be placed in temporary foster care, a physician and a lawyer argue in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The commentary says foster care is more ethical than obesity surgery because long-term effects of the operation in children are unknown. The JAMA article was written by David Ludwig, an obesity doctor at Children’s Hospital Boston, and by lawyer Lindsey Murtagh, a researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Murtagh told the Associated Press that foster care may be needed to protect children suffering obesity-related health problems. The goal, Ludwig said, is to educate the family to allow for reunification.

Intervention helped in the case of a 12-year-old girl who weighed 400 pounds and whose parents had physical disabilities. After a year in foster care, she lost 130 pounds and her Type 2 diabetes disappeared. In another case, a 555-pound teen placed in the home of his mother’s sister lost 200 pounds in two years. 

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