Se­verely anorexic pa­tient can refuse forced feed­ings

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A New Jersey judge has ruled a se­verely anorexic woman com­mit­ted to a state psy­chi­atric hospi­tal two years ago can refuse forced feed­ings and granted her re­quest for care to re­lieve pain or dis­com­fort.

The 29-year-old Mor­ris County woman, iden­ti­fied only as AG, weighs 69 pounds and has been a pa­tient at Grey­stone Park Psy­chi­atric Hospi­tal in Par­sip­pany since 2014. She told the court ear­lier this month she doesn’t want food or wa­ter and would pre­fer in­stead to en­ter pal­lia­tive care. Su­pe­rior Court Judge Paul Arm­strong in Morristown granted her re­quest on Mon­day and or­dered her trans­ferred into pal­lia­tive care at the hospi­tal.

The state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice con­tends the woman is not men­tally com­pe­tent due to her chronic de­pres­sion. It said anorexia is not a ter­mi­nal con­di­tion and had asked the court to ap­prove force-feed­ings, re­quested by state De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices. The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said the woman’s de­pres­sion could be treated us­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal drug.

Doc­tors tes­ti­fied that the woman has been di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal anorex­i­an­er­vosa. She told the court she would re­sist force-feed­ings, which are ad­min­is­tered through a tube in­serted through the nose and pushed down the throat. Her court-ap­pointed lawyer, Ed­ward D’Alessan­dro Jr., said his client’s bone den­sity is com­pa­ra­ble to a 92-year-old’s. She would be at risk for in­jury if re­strained, he said.

Judge Arm­strong de­ter­mined the woman’s tes­ti­mony was “forth­right, re­spon­sive, know­ing, in­tel­li­gent, vol­un­tary, stead­fast and cred­i­ble.” He said the woman’s par­ents, doc­tors, psy­chi­a­trists, court-ap­pointed med­i­cal guardian and the ethics com­mit­tee at Morristown Med­i­cal Cen­ter all sup­ported her de­ci­sion to refuse forced feed­ings.

“This de­ci­sion was made by AG with a clear un­der­stand­ing that death was or could be the pos­si­ble out­come,” the judge said. Arm­strong cited pre­vi­ous “land­mark” cases where pa­tients, their fam­i­lies, physi­cians, and their in­sti­tu­tions were found to be “proper co­op­er­a­tors” in mak­ing dif­fi­cult med­i­cal de­ci­sions. A spokesman for the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on the or­der. It’s un­clear whether the state will ap­peal.—AP

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