Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The case of Alexander Draper

Alexander Draper, photo from WYFF.

Jerri Althea Gray, of Travelers Rest, South Carolina, recently fled the state with her son, 14-year-old Alexander Draper, a student at Northwest Middle School in Greenville County. Draper weighs 555 lbs and this case has become something of a local sensation.

The two were finally located at the end of last month in a laundromat near Baltimore, MD, traced through Gray's cell phone.

It's difficult to unravel the whole saga, but it appears to have ignited when Draper was approached for 'treatment' at school, and declined:

According to the Department of Social Services, Gray was supposed to appear in family court with the boy on Tuesday, but they did not show up. Draper was to be taken into protective custody in South Carolina after officials determined that he was considered to be at a critical stage of health risk.

"There have been some opportunities that have come along for him to participate in some treatment programs and things such as that, and it's my understanding, that for whatever reason, he's not allowed to take part in those treatment programs," said Greenville County Lt. Shea Smith.

At the hearing, Draper was ordered into the custody of the state due to medical neglect and Gray's failure to appear in court.

When officers went to take the boy from the home, they found that he and his mother had left the home on Goodwin Bridge Road in Travelers Rest.

"The understanding was that the individual was of the weight where it was decided by medical authorities that he needed treatment that he wasn't being provided for by his mother," said Matthew Armstrong, of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office.
After the failure to appear in court, Gray was considered a fugitive.

I am horrified that having a fat kid is now considered a crime. On the other hand, I have watched a lot of those Learning Channel shows about morbidly-obese people, and I realize that the words FAMILIAL DYSFUNCTION and CO-DEPENDENCY are usually written all over them, in large, bright captions. Many of these very-obese people confined to their homes, simply would and could not be where they are, without someone constantly feeding them. (Many cannot even leave their houses, much less shop for food.) There is a point in which family IS to blame, just as a family that kept providing alcohol to an alcoholic would similarly be judged. (Note: my father once did this to me, demanding I drink with him if I wanted to stay in his house, so this subject triggers me a bit, as the trendy young bloggers like to call it.)

What if Ms. Gray's religious sentiments conflict with the whole idea of "treatment"? What if she doesn't think he needs any treatment? At what point does law enforcement have the right to intervene? After all, the government regularly intervenes to save the lives of children of Jehovah's Witnesses (and various other anti-medical parents) who decline life-saving medical procedures for their children. If obesity is an illness/disease, how is Gray's refusal to consent to treatment any different from a parent refusing, say, a blood transfusion for their child?

Gray is now charged with medical neglect.

What do you think?