Published March 01, 2007
LONDON – British authorities may take an 8-year-old boy weighing 218 pounds into protective custody unless his mother improves his diet, officials said Monday.
Social service officials will meet family members Tuesday to discuss the health of the obese boy, who weighs more than three times the average for his age.
"The worst case would be (the boy) getting taken into care. He is well cared for," the boy's mother, Nicola McKeown, told ITV television.
A spokeswoman for health officials in Wallsend, North Tyneside, 300 miles north of London, said Tuesday's hearing was part of a process that could eventually lead to (the boy) being taken into protective care. She declined to comment further.
The health agencies organizing Tuesday's meeting issued a statement saying they "have been working with the family over a prolonged period of time and will continue to do so."
An unnamed health official was quoted as telling The Sunday Times that taking him into custody would be a last resort, but said the family had repeatedly failed to attend appointments with nurses, nutritionists and social workers.
"Child abuse is not just about hitting your children or sexually abusing them, it is also about neglect," the official was quoted as saying.
Dr. Colin Waine, the director of the National Obesity Forum in Nottingham, England, called his lifestyle "extremely dangerous," adding he is at risk of developing diabetes in his early teens, and cardiovascular and nervous system problems in his twenties.
"He's really at risk of dying by the time he's 30," Waine said.
Pediatrician Dr. Michael Markiewicz agreed.
"I'm not saying they can't care for him, but what they are doing is through the way they are treating him and feeding him, they are slowly killing him," he said.
The boy's case attracted national attention after his mother allowed an ITV News crew to film his day-to-day life over the course of a month.
His mother said he steals and hides food, frustrating her efforts to help him.
"He has double, triple what a normal boy (of his age) would have, but if I didn't give him enough at teatime then he would just go on at us all night for snacks and stuff," she told ITV.
The boy, who lives with his mother and sister, has difficulty dressing and washing himself, misses school regularly because of poor health and is targeted by bullies.
"People pick on us because of my weight. They call us fat. It makes us feel sick of the nutters always shouting at us," the boy told ITV.