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Weighing The Cost Of Surgery

by Sharon Kirkey ,  Postmedia News | 2011-06-14

They can't bend over to tie their own shoes. They wake at night gasping for breath because of the fatty folds pressing on their airways. Some have bowed legs, enlarged hearts or the fat-engorged livers of alcoholics.

Canada's obesity epidemic is damaging some children so badly that surgeons are turning to an aggressive remedy once reserved for adults: weight-loss surgery.

The list of illnesses they confront -afflictions that were once only seen in adults -keeps growing: "adult-onset" Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, cyst-filled ovaries in girls and, for both sexes, psychological torment and bullying. As more children develop "severe complex obesity," doctors say the only option left for many is to expand access to stomachshrinking operations for children and adolescents as young as 12.

Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children recently became the first pediatric hospital in the country to offer weightloss surgery for 12-to 17-year olds.

"I've had emails and desperate letters from parents, from Newfoundland to B.C., saying, 'Why isn't there anything we can do here?' " said the program's director, Jill Hamilton.

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