Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 227–237

The Controversy Over Pediatric Bariatric Surgery

An Explorative Study on Attitudes and Normative Beliefs of Specialists, Parents, and Adolescents With Obesity


    • Department of PediatricsUniversity Medical Center Utrecht
  • Ineke L. E. Bolt
    • Ethics Institute, Department of HumanitiesUtrecht University
  • Olga H. van der Baan-Slootweg
    • Merem Childhood Obesity Center Heideheuvel
  • Marieke J. H. van Summeren
    • Department of PediatricsUniversity Medical Center Utrecht
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11673-013-9440-0

Cite this article as:
van Geelen, S.M., Bolt, I.L.E., van der Baan-Slootweg, O.H. et al. Bioethical Inquiry (2013) 10: 227. doi:10.1007/s11673-013-9440-0


Despite the reported limited success of conventional treatments and growing evidence of the effectiveness of adult bariatric surgery, weight loss operations for (morbidly) obese children and adolescents are still considered to be controversial by health care professionals and lay people alike. This paper describes an explorative, qualitative study involving obesity specialists, morbidly obese adolescents, and parents and identifies attitudes and normative beliefs regarding pediatric bariatric surgery. Views on the etiology of obesity—whether it should be considered primarily a medical condition or more a psychosocial problem—seem to affect the specialists’ normative opinions concerning the acceptability of bariatric procedures as a treatment option, the parents’ feelings regarding both being able to influence their child’s health and their child being able to control their own condition, and the adolescents’ sense of competence and motivation for treatment. Moreover, parents and adolescents who saw obesity as something that they could influence themselves were more in favor of non-surgical treatment and vice versa. Conflicting attitudes and normative views—e.g., with regard to concepts of disease, personal influence on health, motivation, and the possibility of a careful informed consent procedure—play an important role in the acceptability of bariatric surgery for childhood obesity.


PediatricsBariatric surgeryObesityQualitative study

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013