An anorexic woman who has refused solid foods for over a year will be force-fed, a London judge ruled Friday. Force feeding, he said, is “proportionate and necessary in order to protect her right to life.”
The woman is a 32-year-old former medical student, who suffers “other chronic health conditions,” and has been hospitalized since April, living off little but water. Identified only as E, she is reported to have a history of alcoholism, was sexually abused as a child and has been in and out of treatment for eating disorders since 2006. She also suffers from “unstable personality disorder.”
The reason for court intervention? E wants to die. She signed a document in July 2011 stating that she does not want to be resuscitated or given any medical intervention to prolong life. Her friends support her decision, saying that the judge’s ruling goes against the “dignified death” she wants and deserves.
The judge, Peter Jackson, acknowledged this and admitted the ruling was a “heavy one.” He said, “E is a special person, whose life is of value. She does not see it that way now, but she may in the future. I would not overrule her wishes if further treatment was futile, but it is not. Although extremely burdensome to E, there is a possibility that it will succeed.”
An extraordinarily complicated ruling. Should E be allowed to end her life on her terms? Is the judge right to make decisions for her on the assumption that someday she may recover? Would you feel any different if E were a family member?