A British woman who has not had solid food in over a year is fighting for her right to die from anorexia. The 32-year old woman, known only as “E”, has been in treatment programs numerous times in the past six years, and is currently in a community hospital.
In July of last year the woman signed a statement saying she does not wish to be resuscitated or given any medical intervention to save her life, preferring instead to starve herself to her inevitable death via her anorexia.
While shocking all on its own, perhaps even more shocking is that her family and some of her friends support her wishes. They see the situation as the woman’s right to die and they believe that any hope of her truly recovering from her eating disorder are not realistic, so they are preparing themselves for her death. They see the judge’s ruling as unfair and intrusive.
Judge Peter Jackson does not support her declaration of a “right to die” and has ordered that she be force fed. Her BMI (body mass index) is 11.3, way below what is considered a healthy BMI. The low end of normal BMI for a woman is 18.5. Anything less than 12 indicates increased risk for a sudden cardiac death.
Judge Jackson said that “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.” He further explained his decision by saying that while the woman is “gravely unwell, she is not incurable.” Jackson ordered that “E” be fed, using physical force or chemical sedation as necessary, for a period of “not less than a year.”
Judge Jackson was able to order his decision due to The Mental Capacity Act 2005. It trumps her request not to be fed or otherwise forced to deviate from her decision to starve herself to death because she was deemed to “lack capacity at the material time and she is unable to make the treatment decision for herself because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain”.
In both the United States and the U.K., it is legal to forcibly feed patients whose lives are in danger or who are mentally ill, which can include those with an eating disorder.