A few days ago I read an article which caused me a great deal of thought. The case, which is an unquestionably tragic story, involves a vulnerable, mentally ill young woman in danger of imminent death.
After suffering from the eating disorder known as Anorexia Nervosa and bouts of depression most of her life, she is now so weak that without intervention she is likely to starve herself to death. In an attempt to save the woman´s life, her carers approached the high courts with the intention of winning a court ruling that she be forcibly fed.
Their case was upheld and the court ruled in favor of the carers wishes. This has, perhaps understandably so, sparked outrage amongst many who claim that the deepest wish of the patient is to be left to die. They say the introduction of food is in no way consistent with the woman´s intentions, and that the government should stay out of matters concerning a human beings right to decide when and how they die.
But should one walk away from a young woman with an entrenched history of desperate sadness, and mental health issues, not to mention a body mass index of 11.3 (20 is normal)? Is a person so acutely sick likely to know how they really feel about their future? When we skip on our basic needs, particularly our bodies source of fuel, do any of us make sound decisions?
As much as I acknowledge our constitutional right to reject invasive or brutal treatment, I cannot help but see, that underneath this woman´s total rejection of nourishment, there may be someone crying out for help. Could it ever be ethically justified to allow a young person to die, whom if instead were to be placed in the hands of competent professionals could end up choosing life instead?