Judge Rules 69-Pound Anorexic Woman Has the Right to Refuse Force-Feedings

By Keri Blakinger 11/29/16

The woman has declined further medical help for her long-standing anorexia and wishes "to live freely." 

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Judge Rules 69-Pound Anorexic Woman Has the Right to Refuse Force-Feedings

A 69-pound woman who has struggled with eating disorders all her life has the right to refuse force-feedings and starve to death, a judge ruled last Monday. 

The 29-year-old woman—identified only as "A.G." in court papers—has been in a state psychiatric hospital since 2014, but has struggled with eating disorders since at least 13, the Wall Street Journal reported.  

For more than a decade, her supportive parents have tried every treatment they could get for their daughter—but nothing has worked.

"She hasn't been able to take the treatment and thrive," her mother said, according to The Daily Record. "The thoughts of this whole process are running through her head and she has no peace. She never seems to have a moment where she's just relaxed. She's tormented."

Finally, A.G.’s case ended up in the court system in June, when a New Jersey deputy attorney general asked for the appointment of a medical guardian to make medical decisions for the suffering woman. The state has standing in the case because A.G. is in a state psychiatric hospital.

The attorney appointed as her guardian got a court order dictating that A.G. be force-fed through a tube. Although the sick woman gained around 25 pounds, she suffered heart failure due to “re-feeding syndrome.” The feeding regimen came to a halt after A.G. pulled the tube out herself. 

Although A.G. says that she is prepared to die, according to court papers, she also contends that force-feeding is just an attempt to make her fat. 

Instead, she wants to receive palliative care. Her court-appointed guardian now agrees—as do her parents, psychiatrists, medical team, and even the ethics committee at Morristown Medical Center. 

Her doctors told the court that she’s not likely to recover from her late terminal stage anorexia.

Even force-feeding—which her doctors called “inhumane”—could carry its own risk. The process involves inserting a tube down the patient’s nose and throat up to three times a day. But since A.G. has vowed to resist the feedings, she would have to be restrained and could break her fragile bones, which have been weakened to the density of a 92-year-old’s from prolonged starvation.

Furthermore, feedings would only keep her alive, but they wouldn’t cure the underlying eating disorder, her court-appointed attorney pointed out. 

But the state, arguing that A.G. is mentally ill and not competent to make decisions, proposed more force-feeding along with an experimental depression treatment using ketamine.

Morris County Judge Paul Armstrong disagreed, calling the woman’s testimony “knowing, intelligent, voluntary, steadfast and credible.” Last Monday he approved her transfer to a palliative care unit at Morristown Medical Center. 

It’s not clear whether the state will appeal the ruling, the Journal reported. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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