Development and application of an ethical framework for pediatric metabolic and bariatric surgery evaluation


Background. As severe obesity continues to rise among youth, metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS) will increasingly be used as a treatment of choice for durable weight loss and improvement of obesity-related complications. MBS for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and for preadolescents has raised ethical questions. Objectives. The purpose of this article is to present the creation and application of an ethical framework that supports why MBS should be considered in pediatrics based on the principle of justice without automatic exclusions. This framework also provides a guide for how to conduct a robust, ethically grounded evaluation of pediatric patients presenting for MBS in general, and among subpopulations including youth with IDD and preadolescents. Setting. Academic medical center, United States. Methods. An ethical framework was developed and applied through a collaboration between an MBS center at a children’s hospital and the institution’s ethics consult service. Results. Application of the ethical framework to address 4 core ethical questions is illustrated using 2 hypothetical cases: 1 that highlights an adolescent with IDD and 1 that highlights a preadolescent. Conclusions. We have demonstrated the application of a novel, overarching framework to conduct the ethical evaluation of youth presenting for MBS. This framework resulted from a collaboration between MBS and ethics consult teams and has the potential to be used as a prototype for other youth-focused MBS programs. Next steps include prospective data collection to test the framework and determine its validity in the target population.

Surg Obes Relat Dis Feb; 17(2):425-433