Saturday, June 16, 2012

In the news/ June challenge 16: beginning

I wanted to get back on track with the June challenge but I've been very affected by a story in the news today. The BBC has summarised it thus: "A woman with "severe" anorexia who wanted to be allowed to die is to be force fed in her "best interests" by order of a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson declared that the 32-year-old from Wales, who cannot be identified, did not have the capacity to make decisions for herself."
This has raised all sorts of questions in my head. Clearly, the resonances with my own life are huge. I was 32 when I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act so that the hospital had the power to make me stay and to give me nutrition via an NG tube. It was not my first hospital admission; however, even though assessment under the Mental Health Act had been mentioned in previous admissions, on those times, I'd somehow been able to make the decision to stay and to assent to NG feeding if I was not able to feed myself.
I'm not certain why this particular case has reached the High Court. The Mental Health Act is usually enough to resolve things. One psychiatrist interviewed on Radio 4 news earlier said that the Mental Capacity Act is also available in such situations. The article suggests that the lady (known as E to protect her identity) and her treatment team had been following a palliative care plan. I think it implies that her family had reservations and this is why the case has reached the court system.
I'm incredibly torn about this. I've heard friends screaming as they are force-fed with an NG tube. It's distressing even if you aren't physically fighting against it. The judge has said "I have been struck by the fact that the people who know E best do not favour further treatment. They think that she has had enough and believe that her wishes should be respected.
"They believe she should be allowed a dignified death." He also points out that forcefeeding "does not merely entail bodily intrusion of the most intimate kind, but the overbearing of E's will in a way that she experiences as abusive".
But this judge also notes that while E is gravely ill, he does not believe she is incurable. And this is so, so crucial to this case: while E may not currently have any hope for her life, I know from experience that, after the horror of starting treatment without any sense that one's life has a point or is worth saving, life begins to open up possibilities. I'm still scared of the future; I'm scared that I will never get any better and will never have a family of my own or be well enough to work in a fulfilling career that can sustain my independence. And sometimes my low mood makes it hard to get through all of the hours in the day. However, I can't express how glad I am that the doctors and nurses thought it was worth taking over for me when I was unable to help myself get better. A year on and I have new friends, two dogs snuggled up on my lap as I type and I've met three new babies (belonging to friends) whose lives I would have missed if I'd not made it through the end of 2010.
So finally I've realised that this does relate to today's word: beginning. The High Court ruling is a new beginning for E. I don't know E but I hope and pray that this moment marks the start of hope for her. Even though she can't hope for herself right now, Mr Justice Jackson has hope for E. I have hope for E. I hope that the horror of facing the first weeks of refeeding passes without too much pain and trauma. I hope that gradually she begins to have moments of joy, whether it's from the sun shining on a summer flower or a smile from a friend's baby or a shared laugh with a friend in hospital. And I hope that she begins to believe that recovery is possible.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

I'm new to your blog and wanted to say hi. :-)
This story is so sad, I really hope E. will one day look back with gratitude that they refused to let her die. She deserves a life without an eating disorder...