Anorexia And “Force Feeding”- Self Determination Or Self Annihilation
A while ago I was listening to LBC radio. The subject was a decision in favour of the so-called force feeding of patient E. On Saturday Norman Lamont suggested that the decision to force feed could be an intrusion on her right to self determination . What complicates this case is that the parents of this young medical student,- anorexic since eleven years of age-wants their daughter to be left to die with dignity.
There is nothing dignified about anorexia or any other mental health condition for that matter. Also, I just wish that people would STOP using the term “force feeding”, which reminds us of the traumas inflicted on suffragettes on hunger strike to obtain the vote for British women. I just wish that people would use the proper term, which is ENTERAL FEEDING.
Many clinicians have been writing in favour of the judge’s decision on Linked In. We talk to each other about things we know, which is that low weight impairs the ability to think clearly. That at low weights the anorexic voice drowns out logic, reason and happiness.
But not-one said it better than Kate, who came nervously to the radio to express her point of view. Kate has been anorexic since age 9 and in hospital many times during her young years. She said “I have no idea why I just didn’t want to eat, but I didn’t, and there were times when I would have been very happy to just fade away.
But they didn’t let me, and there were times when I was on a section and they threatened me with the tube…. No it wasn’t a threat, it was just something they said would happen but it felt like a threat at the time. Having no control over what they put in it was the worst thing imaginable for me.
But I somehow got to the age of 20 and I said to myself, I’m sick and tired of this anorexia. It took 11 years for me to admit I had a problem. So I made myself start to eat. I’m 24 now and life is so much better. Life isn’t a bed of roses but anorexia is very hard work; and I had enough.
I spoke to my father about it and he admitted that he had something like me when he was in his teens, but being a man nothing was said or done about it.”
The interviewer asked, “Everyone is saying that it’s all the pressure on young girls to be slim, in magazines and so on?”
“Oh no”, she said, “When I was nine I hadn’t even seen a magazine. It’s nothing to do with magazines and models, it’s just the way the brain is wired”.
So there you have it from the people who really count. Clinicians know very little. Listen to the people who have looked into the pit and been dragged into the light, kicking and screaming. At all costs we have to arbitrate in favour of the wish to live.