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US court ruling: 30 year old anorexic & bulimic woman removed from life-support

A pertinent lesson in capacity for us all from the US: Judge Paul Armstrong determined that the testimony of a woman with anorexia testimony was 'forthright, responsive, knowing, intelligent, voluntary, steadfast and credible,' before ruling that she could elect for palliative care and not be force-fed to maintain life. Her attorney successfully argued that force feeding would be harmful, not least because due to her bone density she might sustain broken bones being restrained for it.

A 30-year-old anorexic & bulimic woman, ‘Ashely G’ has died in a New Jersey hospital three months after a court denied a request to force-feed her.  She had suffered from anorexia nervosa for well over a decade and had been diagnosed with chronic depression. She had been hospitalized since 2014. In 2016 the Department of Human Health Services took her to court requesting that she be force-fed, yet Morris County Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong ruled instead she be moved to palliative care.

“Whether grounded in common law or constitutional law, our courts have uniformly recognized a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment as a fundamental tenet of respect for patient autonomy, dignity and self-determination,” Armstrong ruled last November.

The woman told the judge that she would resist nasogastric tube force-feeding. Her attorney, Edward D'Alessandro, was successful in the landmark 1970s case about 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan, a women in a persistent vegetative state, who was removed from life-support so that she could die.

“It [force feeding] would have amounted to torture and we would have been at the same result,” D’Alessandro told the New York Post. “The court chose the correct and compassionate path.”

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