This comes on the heels of the studies in the Annals of Medicine & the Journal of the American Medical Association which showed significantly shortened lifespan related to complications of obesity when it develops in teenagers. This difference appears to be far more significant the the already formidable problems we see in obesity with later onset.
The exploration of indications for operating on teens is one we've had publicly in plastic surgery for many years. Most often this has to do with the question of when is an appropriate age to consider breast reduction, but increasingly there has been reports on a trend where teens are receiving rhinoplasties or breast implants as "graduation gifts".
I won't dwell on the specific of the Slate.com story but some of the risk/benefit analysis is a very good read. As someone who did a lot of bariatric surgery during my general surgery training & has an active practice in post massive weight loss Plastic Surgery, I feel the benefits strongly exceed the risks. There is a real opportunity to nip life-threatening obesity in the bud in selected children who statistically have little real hope of controlling their weight on their own once they reach that age.
Also, I'd like to point people with an interest in weight loss surgery to a neat little community, Renewed Reflections, which is a forum for information & support for those considering or those who've had bariatric surgery.