A High Court judge has ruled that a 32yr old Welsh woman suffering from severe anorexia should be force fed. It is reported that the woman is intelligent, articulate, wishes to make her own decisions, and that her carers and family oppose force feeding. They also believe she should be allowed to die with respect. Its also reported that she has been on a course of palliative treatment for a long time, not having eaten for many months. What is one to make of this decision. Must admit that I find it quite shocking.
I accept that force feeding of anorexic sufferers is not always wrong. Its an awful condition, and if a judgement is made that the patient is not competent to make a decision, and there is a good chance of recovery if force feeding takes place, it may be reasonable to force feed. But we' re told that this woman is 'intelligent and articulate" and "wants to make her own decisions". We're also told of the long term nature of her condition and the conclusion of her carers, and those who know her best believe she should be allowed to die with dignity.
My first instinct was that this is a quite awful decision, where the 'state' has decided to take ownership of a 'competent' person's body, and to take an unreasonable action to extend life. I accept that its easier to take a view not knowing who the patient is. Even after thinking about it, I still consider it to be a bad decision. But I do want to discuss it with those to whom I look for discussion about the ethics of these sort of issues - Lord Carlile of Berriew, Lady Finley of Llandaff and Robert Preston of LDW. Already I am a strong opponent of 'assisted suicide' and of 'presumed consent'. Is this to be another cause to persue?