‘A child died as a result of obesity when their mother did nothing to help the situation. The teenager, 13, identified only as Child F1 was fed takeaways on their death bed by their mum who was accused of emotionally abusing them.
A newly-published review of the case in Manchester found that the mother failed to provide a PE kit for the child to take to school and tried to prevent them from getting help for their weight. F1, who was described as ‘sunny and friendly’, enjoyed PE but asked teachers not to tell their mum about extra health and exercise classes they were taking. Meanwhile, the mother would feed the child with 2,000 calories of food before lunch, including a high-calorie takeaway as a second breakfast. When she was asked about the child’s weight, she told them that F1 was ‘lazy’ and described them as a ‘doughnut’. The mother would also miss appointments made for the child with healthcare professionals, leading to serious health issues. Eventually, the child was hospitalised in February 2015, but even there the mother was aggressive towards staff and emotionally abusive towards F1. During that hospital stay the child was found to have a dilated cardiomyopathy, a blood clot, and a history of morbid obesity.
The child returned home but several weeks later returned to intensive care where their health ‘deteriorated significantly’. Doctors could not carry out a heart transplant because of their weight, lack of fitness and deteriorating condition. Child F1 died in April that year. A criminal investigation was started but no further action was taken. Professionals described feeling ‘paralysis’ about classing obesity as a signal of neglect or abuse but now they are being urged to have difficult conversations with parents following the teenager’s death. By the age of three F1 weighed 66lbs – more than double the average of children the same age and was in the 99.6th BMI percentile, which is at the top end of the range. Doctors, the school nurse, a nutritionist and a weight management service all raised concerns but they were found often not to be proactive in liaising with other authorities. Many were unsure if their concerns would be taken seriously, a serious case review found.
The report said: ‘Professionals worked in isolation from each other, information was not always shared, meetings were not held and no holistic assessment undertaken. ‘The complexity of the situation was not recognised and the longer the lack of serious action continued, the harder it was for professionals to consider or name this as a case of childhood neglect.’ Manchester safeguarding board chair Julia Stephens-Row said: ‘It’s an area where everybody has to have those difficult conversations. ‘It’s not an easy conversation to be talking to parents about their child’s weight and also potentially their own weight. It’s that family environment.’