Judge Rules Anorexic Woman Should Be Force-Fed

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?

(NYDaily News)

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    • BeccaTheCyborg

      I think it’s horrifying for a judge to rule against what a grown-ass woman wishes for her own body (at no danger to anyone else) pretty much all the time, and this is no exception. The condescending assumption that he knows what’s right for the poor crazy little lady makes my skin crawl. It’s sad as hell that that’s where E has ended up and what she thinks is best for her, but that’s her fucking decision. People should be allowed to end their lives on their own terms. (And yes, this has been a real thing that I’ve had to deal with re: loved ones.)

    • porkchop

      That’s weird. As a person, I would love to see this person treated, but legally… I don’t know why the DNR is on the table. Why can’t she just refuse treatment? If she doesn’t want to be treated for any of her health problems, shouldn’t she be allowed to go home?

    • Miss C

      I linked in another post to the study that clearly demonstrated how starvation messes with your head, no matter how sane you started out, but at risk of being a nuisance I’ll do it again here: http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2009/12/the-minnesota-starvation-experiment/

      Physiologically, she simply cannot be in her right mind in that state, any more than if she’d done a cupful of LSD, PCP, what have you.

      If her medical condition were a degenerative illness which couldn’t be reversed, I’d feel differently, but this condition can be reversed by correct nutrition, and I think she should be given that, the same way they’d put an inflatable thingy under where someone was threatening to jump off a cliff.

      I don’t have the linkage handy, but of the 515 people prevented from suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge in the ’70s, only 6% went on to kill themselves later – indicating that suicidal urges are often transitory, and so it’s a good thing that sometimes, people’s free will doesn’t get its own way.

    • Cate

      This is awful. It’s awful what she’s doing to herself, and it’s awful that the judge ruled to force-feed her.
      I think that telling an adult what they can and cannot do with their own body is pretty much one of the most morally reprehensible things someone can do. It’s tragic that she’s starving herself to death, but force-feeding is not the answer.

      • Miss C

        If someone was tripping on acid, and trying to jump off a 10-storey building, would you apply the same rules though?

        Society tells people what to do with their bodies all the time: don’t penetrate children (no matter how much many individuals might secretly like the idea), don’t lash out with fists or feet when angry, don’t reach your hand into someone else’s purse when you’re short of cash, don’t defecate in the supermarket aisles…

        If the patient was a teenage boy and the judge female, I don’t think this would ring quite so many (understandable in context, but misguided) alarm bells about men telling women what to do with their bodies.

    • Danielle

      This is tricky because can you really force someone to take care of themselves? And is it ethical to do so? I know people with emphysema who continue to smoke. I had two friends who literally drank themselves to death and even though I wanted them to stop drinking I didn’t feel as though it was my job to force them to stop. I did not however, support their alcoholism and eventually I ended the friendship. I found out later through mutual friends of their deaths. I think we’re going to start seeing more these kinds of rulings, not just with anorexia but with morbid obesity and drug and alcohol addiction.

      E is very obviously a harm to herself and on those grounds she should not be left to her own devices. Force feeding her? I’m not so sure about that.

    • Malika Bourne

      This poor gal needs more than to be force fed. She needs a competent psych program that will help her deal with all the issues that go with anorexia, for how many years? Most likely she will have a cardiac arrest before she gets enough nutrition down her. The phrase “force fed” sound s horrible. NG feeding would be force fed. This has gone too far @ 32 pounds. someone should have stepped in before. Of course she’d be depressed and miserable at that weight.