Should Anorexics be force fed? The latest legal ruling could kill the patient - but doing nothing might also condemn her to death.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that a leading judge who sits in the Court of Protection, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, has ruled that a former medical student suffering from severe anorexia nervosa, and who is at a life-threatening low weight, should be force-fed against her wishes by doctors.
Dr Evan Harris, the former Liberal Democrat MP and member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, is quoted by the Daily Telegraph to have responded: "The implications of force-feeding are really significant because she would need restraining or sedation and the treatment would last a year... It might not succeed and is itself life-threatening. To impose that on a patient who might be competent in refusing treatment is a very major step."
The 32-year-old woman is described as not having eaten solid food for a year and her parents are reported by the Daily Telegraph to have told the court: "It upsets us greatly to advocate for our daughter's right to die... We feel she has suffered enough..."
Mr Justice Jackson is reported by the newspaper to have conceded the woman stood only a 20% chance of recovery even if she was put on an invasive force-feeding programme that would last at least a year.
Is it really true that medical intervention can be as dangerous as leaving people with an eating disorder to starve themselves to death? And is it also true that it's pretty pointless anyway?
In a 2010 study by Dr Marie Vignaud from the University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, France, all patients with Anorexia Nervosa admitted to 11 Intensive Care Units in France between 2006-2008 were investigated, and of 68 admissions, seven died during the admission. The study published in the academic medical journal Critical Care, found the commonest cause of death was 'Refeeding Syndrome'. This is a potentially fatal shift in fluid and...