UAE fat kids undergo major surgery only suitable for adults, says surgeon
A hospital in the UAE says it conducts bariatric surgery on obese kids as young as 11, despite claims by other medics that the procedure is not suitable for under-18s.
Earlier this week, 7DAYS reported that desperate mums and dads are turning to specialist surgeons to help their overweight offspring, even with costs running at Dhs50,000.
One cosmetic surgery clinic in Dubai told 7DAYS that such requests were denied as no doctor would perform bariatric surgery on anyone under the age of 18, because the youngsters’ bodies have not fully developed. However, Dr Safwan Taha, a bariatric surgeon at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi - and also the facility’s chief surgeon and medical director - insists such operations do take place.
Taha says he has operated on about 20 obese children in the UAE, and claims adolescent bariatric surgery is now “very well established” across the globe. He added: “Bariatric surgery can be the only hope for morbidly obese teenagers who will eventually end up with severe disability otherwise. Bariatric surgeons all over the world, including us in the UAE, are performing bariatric surgery on patients under the age of 18 according to international protocols and guidelines - and the outcomes of the operations are literally phenomenal.”
However, Taha, who is Iraqi, insists surgery is always “the last resort”.
“Unless you have provided two ‘failed control tests’ of attempting to lose weight for six months each - at least - then we will not (operate),” he said. “If you cannot produce that - if you cannot produce those documents - then we refer you to nutritionists.”
Taha, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, told 7DAYS that he has performed surgery on an 11-year-old child.
He said that “more than 90 per cent” of obesity surgery cases at his hospital were UAE nationals. He added that there is even a hospital in Saudi Arabia - another nation with huge obesity problems - that will operate on grossly overweight children under the age of 10.
But only if they have “metabolic disorders that make them really obese”. There are about seven bariatric surgery facilities in the UAE “a handful” of which will perform the procedure on patients under the age of 18, Taha added.