What Do You Think About a 2-Year-Old Having Weight Loss Surgery?

Weight Loss Surgery for Children

I don’t know if you saw this story, but in Saudi Arabia, a 2-year-old little boy has undergone weight loss surgery. Two years old. Barely out of babyhood.

I did not have surgery myself and do not judge people who have it because I know that having surgery is not the “easy way out” but also requires good choices, a change in lifestyle, and relearning old habits to work properly. After all, if it was easy, no one who had surgery would ever have complications or regain their weight.

The little boy was 79 pounds when he was 2 years old and after a couple unsuccessful dieting attempts the doctors decided, with the parent’s permission, to perform the surgery. I don’t know all the details of his case and I’m sure the decision was not made without a lot of thought. I do wonder if there was an underlying medical problem the doctors were unable to diagnose.

As a mom, my heart goes out to this little boy and his family. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to send their son into the operating room where most of his stomach was going to be removed in an attempt to help  him lose weight. That decision will have permanent effects on his ability to eat but at the same time may also have saved his life.

This is a short post today because I am interested in what you all think.

What do you think about a 2-year-old having weight loss surgery? Is there an age where it becomes okay for a child to undergo the surgery? Diane

14 thoughts on “What Do You Think About a 2-Year-Old Having Weight Loss Surgery?

  1. Ann Wilson says:

    Wow, I’m amazed! A weight loss surgery for a two year old. Every person I know who has had that surgery has had so many complications and it seems to require so much self monitoring. It would really worry me and I think I’d need to monitor his intake even more with a surgery. However, a 79 pound child is unsafe as well. I just honestly feel baffled as to why they would actually conduct a surgery. I agree with you. There had to be some medical reason for the weight gain.

  2. Kyra says:

    I saw the story. Honestly, I didn’t like that they chose the surgery. At two, a child is not driving to McDonald’s or ordering pizza for delivery. And if there is an underlying medical condition, the surgery to reduce intake and nothing else would have worked, but the after pictures I saw showed that he did lose a lot of weight. What I see there is the parents not parenting, and that’s sad. A two year old relies on its parents for the food. They did that, and they could have helped. In my opinion the surgery was really done to put a halt to the bad food decisions the parents clearly couldn’t make for their own child.

    As far as when is old enough? I’ve seen some late teenager’s stories, and I think my opinion on that lies in the idea that when a child starts thinking like an adult (late teens? 20s?), when they can fully appreciate the risks and their options, that’s when.

  3. Dr. J says:

    Let me give you another perspective on this. Let’s say this child needed lifesaving heart surgery. No one would question that. I read the article. The child was at risk of dying from sleep apnea. I suppose they could have done a tracheotomy on him and used C-pap, and so forth, but this would not help him with a growing weight that was going to kill him. This is one case in the world, and you know how the news media is.

  4. Karen J says:

    I don’t think the doctors would have done it if his life wasn’t in danger. Since we don’t know what his parents were feeding him or whether they were obese themselves, there is no way to tell if it was a nature or nurture situation. It is unusual for a 2 year old to be at that weight and I have to believe there was some sort of medical condition involved. We have had stories in this country of obese children being taken away from their parents by child protective services and that was not the case here.

  5. Babbalou says:

    I personally think this is tragic on many levels. I read a single article recently with pictures. There were health issues developing as a result of the boy’s weight – I think problems with his legs being unable to support his body. I’m sure there were many health issues, the photos of the boy pre-surgery were NOT good. The article also said there were several weight loss diets prior to the surgery, but medical professionals were unable to determine whether the parents followed them. I’m sorry the child had to have the surgery at such a young age, I’m sorry more effort wasn’t made to control his food intake prior to the surgery and I don’t understand why things ever got to the point they did. My boys stopped eating when they were full. They loved being active, and being active was natural to them. I’m sure that had I not taken them out to the park every day (we lived in a downtown urban neighborhood) they would have just run like crazy men through the house. I really don’t think there’s anything I could have done with my kids that would have resulted in that kind of weight gain by age 2. So I think there’s a piece of the puzzle that is not known by us. I wonder what on earth they fed him? And perhaps their home was tiny and they didn’t take him out to play?

  6. Hope K says:

    I agree with most people here that the toddler’s life was probably saved by the surgery. Perhaps the child has Prader-Willi Syndrome. This site explains the disorder: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=8222023&page=1

    What I find scary is that young children, especially foster children, are being forced to take antipsychotics that make them gain amazing amounts of weight and sometimes cause them to get diabetes. These children are often difficult and the doctors prescribe the drugs as a chemical straightjacket. I think other methods should be used first. I wrote a post about it a while back: http://theskinnyonpsychmeds.com/?p=583

    Any medical decision for a child should be thought out thoroughly, I believe. Their bodies are small and fragile. Great care should be taken to give the little people of our future healthy lives!

  7. Pam says:

    I heard about this a few days ago and was horrified. Then I started thinking more about it, and tried to be more objective in my judgment. I had not read the details….that the little guy was already 70 lbs. As you pointed out, this surgery will mean his body is changed for life. My daughter-in-law had the surgery over seven years ago. She lost about 75 pounds pretty quickly, of course the complications she had after surgery helped with that. She got bored with following a restricted diet after about six months, and has evidently increased her stomach’s capacity again, because even though she needed to lose much more than that original 75 pounds she lost, she has gained it all back plus some. She no longer even makes an attempt to eat healthy, and all the health problems she had before surgery (diabetes, etc.) have also returned.

    A two-year-old’s eating should be completely governed by his parents. I think a more concentrated effort should be given to see if changing his caloric intake and upping his activity level could have a positive effect. At two, he hasn’t even been on real food for all that long.

    Since surgery is, as you stated, just a tool in weight loss and weight loss maintenance, is this little guy mature enough to realize that he needs to change his lifestyle? Of course not. He is TWO! His parents need to be the ones who are given surgery…. surgery as a metaphor for intensive instruction in how to raise a child who is not allowed to eat everything in sight.

    That being said, as the parent of a 400+ lb. adult man, perhaps some of that “surgery” would be a good thing for many of us parents.

  8. Kim says:

    I think my first response was very knee-jerk and I thought “no way!!” However, that was a completely uninformed (on my part) and judgemental response. I’m not really sure what I would have done if I had a child in that situation.

  9. Janis says:

    I have to agree with Dr. J. — it sounds to me that, like the woman who spilled hot coffee on herself and sued McDonalds, there is probably more to this story than we’re hearing.

  10. l says:

    The most troubling aspect of this story, for me, is the fact that the article said there were several weight loss diets prior to the surgery, but medical professionals WERE NOT ABLE to determine whether the parents FOLLOWED them. ???

    Is that the American media not telling us everything, or is it parents not doing their job?

    The article suggests that overeating was the reason for the decision to do the surgery. How is a two-year old getting that much food delivered to him without adult supervision and help? And if the problem was a parenting situation gone wrong, couldn’t one expect other problems down the road? I know more than a few people who have had the surgery (my sister for one, with life threatening consequences that included another surgery to fix the first). She/they has/have regained the weight, so it is not an all inclusive cure, right?

    Poor child!

  11. Debra says:

    Doesn’t seem really fair to be so judgmental of the parents without all the facts. A bit more compassion and less finger pointing would be good for all of us.

  12. Alex says:

    I echo others thoughts, my first response was ‘WHY?’, but that was my response with no further knowledge. I can’t judge the parents because we don’t know all the facts, if there was a medical reason then I think the doctors have made a hard choice and decided to ahead with the surgery to save his life.

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