Over the last eighteen months of the recession, a new term has emerged from the pages of academic textbooks and into the public consciousness. This is “moral hazard”. As applied to banks, large insurance companies and other financial institutions, the debate runs along the following lines. If the free market applies, businesses that fail go through bankruptcy. The market does not forgive bad decision making. So when the state proposes to bail out failing businesses, it distorts the market. Worse, if decision makers believe the state will bail them out, it changes the way in which they take decisions. They can be completely reckless, gamble with the investors’ money, and still have the government rescue them. The morality of their behavior is changed by the belief they will be saved no matter what they do. So now let’s apply this to children and teenagers. The First Lady is leading a campaign to tackle obesity in the young. The figures from 2004 do not make encouraging reading. About 5 million adolescents were then obese. There is every reason to believe this number will be significantly higher today.
Despite the absence of evidence showing bariatric surgery to be safe and effective in adults, there is increasing pressure to allow adolescents to go through the procedures, i.e. between the ages of 14 and 17 years. Not unnaturally, some of this pressure is coming from the for-profit hospitals and clinics that perform the surgery and from the device manufacturers who, amongst other things, make the Lap Bands used to restrict food intake. The adolescents themselves have bad body images and, thanks to peer pressure, also feel driven to “do something” to reduce weight. Parents understand their children’s health is at risk because they are overweight. Many will fall seriously ill before reaching thirty. They feel pressured to spend their money for the surgery – health insurance plans do not usually cover these operations because of the lack of medical evidence confirming safety and effectiveness. This is beginning to form a perfect storm. Except we have this moral hazard. Why are these young people eating so much? Who pays for all this excessive and unhealthy food? Why can they not diet, exercise and lose weight? Put another way: if you were a teen and knew your parents would pay for surgery, would you put any effort into dieting and weight loss?
Weight loss is a billion dollar industry and it is, frankly, depressing we should be even discussing the possibility of surgery for our children. It is bad enough when adults risk their health by going through surgical procedures not justified by scientific research. That we should be proposing the same unproven surgery for our children is morally indefensible. Parents should control their children from young and teach them good food habits. Schools should reinforce these habits and government should regulate the quality of food for children. If all fails, the children can take responsibility for their own health when they become adults. That means they diet, buy phentermine online and lose weight the hard way. Unfortunately, phentermine hcl is not suitable for children and adolescents, otherwise its power as an appetite suppressant could help children to eat less. The drug helps people when their own self-discipline is low. As it stands, the promotion of bariatric surgery is the latest bailout scandal and is introducing moral hazard into the behavior of our young. Government should step in and stop this.