jueves, 31 de marzo de 2011

Who is responsible for the health of our children?

France: a vegan couple fed their daughter only mother’s milk and consequently she died at 11-months due to vitamin deficiency. They are now charged with "neglect or food deprivation followed by death" and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

China: four-year boy weighs 62kg, he presently outweighs his mother and is around 5 times heavier than the average child his age.

Indonesia: two-year old boy smokes 15 cigarettes a day (now down from 40), after father gave him his first cigarette at 16 months of age.

Millions of young adults suffer from devastating effects of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity and serious self-esteem issues. These conditions are the result of the eating and lifestyle habits established when they were kids. So, who's responsible? Many are so angry that they decide to press class action lawsuits against the ones that got them into this mess - the parents.

What is generally agreed upon is that children should not suffer due to their parents’ personal lifestyle choices and they must be held accountable. So, what does the law say? A Canadian child protection site emphasizes: children must “receive adequate care”, “not be neglected”, parents must “meet basic needs”, “provide reasonable supervision”, “not allow others to mistreat, abuse or neglect your child”. How does one decide what all that means? Clearly, neglect means different things to a Filipino family and a French one!

Responsibility and accountability are terms often used it relation to morality, ethics and law. But where does it fit in relation to health? Who is responsible for our health? Personally, I believe that just as a criminal steals, deals drugs or commits more serious crimes the pivotal question is the age of the assailant.

As I ponder this question it seems unethical to say that parents are responsible for the obesity of a 4 year-old child but are no longer accountable once that child turns 18 and proceeds to suffer numerous conditions due to the habits his parents instilled upon him as a child. But, how can we regulate this behavior and how can we control children’s upbringing while still respecting parents’ personal choices on how to raise their children?

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