National organizations and individual advocates work tirelessly to educate the public on the lethal nature of anorexia. Far too many people continue to perceive this eating disorder as a phase or a simple bid for attention. Fortunately change is evident in certain areas.
Recently, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong ruled against a 20-year-old female in a conflict between her and her parents. Referred to by the acronym S.A., the young woman weighed only 60 pounds when she was admitted to a clinic in June.
The parents claimed S.A. was incapable of making her own medical decisions. The daughter’s physicians concurred, determining that she no longer understood the gravity of her situation. In addition, the doctors believed her only chance for recovery would come through parental guardianship. Conversely, her lawyer argued that she was capable of making decisions and could manage her eating disorder.
The judge ruled in favor of the parents, giving them the power to force-feed their daughter in order to save her life.
No doubt, this was a difficult decision for the judge to render. Depriving an individual of her right to make personal health-related decisions is rare. Perhaps Armstrong’s ruling was facilitated by a similar court case in which he presided. Only months earlier, a 30-year-old severely anorexic woman fought mandatory force-feeding. He sided with her. She is now dead.
Since Armstrong’s ruling, S.A. has gained 15 pounds. This in no way indicates that she is in the clear and on the road to a solid recovery. What it does indicate is that she is alive and hopefully moving in the right direction. And that alone means a very great deal certainly to her parents, perhaps to Judge Armstrong, and most definitely to those of us in the behavioral health field who have watched scores of beautiful, bright and talented young women die from this terrible disease.