I was listening to The Current on the CBC yesterday morning. They were discussing the case of a Ottawa man who may lose custody of his children, in part, because he is obese. For more about his case click here. This man was 520 lbs but is now down to 380 lbs. Clearly there are other issues in this particular case; substance abuse, and anger management issues were mentioned on the radio. Let’s pretend that these other issues weren’t present. Should a judge consider a parent’s weight when determining their ability to be a good parent? I think this is a dangerous direction to be taking. If we considered obesity as we would any other health condition (for example, cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis, paralysis) would we be having this debate? I’m sure there are people out there who would say “Yes, if a parent has cancer and is somewhat incapacitated due to chemotherapy take away their children!” but I’m also pretty sure that more people would be appalled at the thought. Why is obesity any different? It’s because it’s their own fault that they’re obese. Right? Wrong. Obesity is a complex issue and we need to stop being so judgemental. There are plenty of terrible parents out there who are not morbidly obese and obesity alone does not make you an unfit parent.
Where do you draw the line when you start considering obesity as a factor in child custody cases? Is it when mobility is affected? Or maybe it’s a certain BMI? It’s a slippery slope. As long as the parent can provide for their children then I think that their weight should hold no weight in court.