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Force feeding not in ‘best interests’ of anorexic woman, Court of Protection rules

The Court of Protection has ruled that an anorexic woman, who weighs only three stone two pounds, should not be force fed.

30 August 2012

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Since the age of 14 the woman, who is now 29, has spent 90 per cent of her life in hospital, according to a BBC report.

Mrs Justice King said that “all reasonable steps” should be taken to gain the woman’s co-operation, without “physical force”.

The court heard that the woman from the north of England, known as ‘L’, has suffered from anorexia from the age of 12.

Counsel for the NHS trust involved said things had “reached a point where the NHS trust, who have her physical care, are of the view that force feeding is not in her best interests, notwithstanding that it is probable that if not fed she will die”.

She said L, who was being treated at a psychiatric unit until March this year, had “defied expectations” by continuing to live at such a low weight.

The court heard that the woman had only agreed to receive 600 calories each day through a tube, which was “insufficient to maintain her current weight and certainly could not allow her to put on weight”.

After hearing the evidence, Mrs Justice King ruled it would be in L’s best interests for medical staff to provide her with nutrition, hydration and medical treatment “in circumstances where she complies with that administration”.

She also declared medical staff should be permitted “not to provide L with nutrition and hydration” if she did not agree to it, and it was not possible to do “without the use of physical force”.

Should L enter the “terminal stage of her illness”, she should be provided with palliative care so she “suffers the least distress and retains the greatest dignity until such a time as her life comes to an end”.

In June, the Court of Protection ruled that a 32-year-old woman with severe anorexia, who wanted to be allowed to die, should be force fed in her best interests.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson said the woman from Wales did not have the capacity to make decisions for herself.

For the BBC's full report see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19369239

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