Woman with severe eating disorder wins right to refuse forced feedings

A woman battling a severe eating disorder won the right to refuse forced feedings in a New Jersey court on Monday, according to her attorney.

Judge Paul Armstrong announced that the court recognized her right to “live free from medical intervention” in an opinion delivered in Morris County Superior Court, according to attorney Edward d’Alessandro.

The order came after state agencies moved to force the 29-year-old woman, referred to in court documents as A.G., to use a feeding tube, which would deliver liquid nutrition through her nose directly into her stomach, as part of her care.

The legal battle was set in motion when her court-appointed guardian sought an order allowing her to enter palliative care, since feeding methods put in place over the summer led to heart failure, which she has now recovered from. The woman had recently ripped out her PICC line and had repeatedly refused further treatment, according to court documents. A PICC line is essentially an IV tube used to administer treatments such as chemotherapy or, as in this case, saline nutrition.

The state’s Department of Human Services and its Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services opposed the motion.

Armstrong’s ruling now means the woman can enter palliative care, where the goal is to relieve the symptoms of her illness and improve her quality of life, which was her wish.

However, the state argued in a legal brief that “This is in essence, permitting A.G. to die.”

The Department of Human Services referred questions to the state attorney general’s office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The woman has had anorexic thoughts since the age of 5, according to court documents. With incidents dating as far back as her high school years, she has repeatedly refused to cooperate with treatment and has been hospitalized multiple times for her disorder.

The disorder, involving both eating restriction and bingeing and purging, left her weighing only 60 pounds when she was admitted to the hospital this summer.

The state argues that the woman is delusional, claiming that she “suffers from a mental disorder that, among other things, includes a distorted view of reality, and a false view of her own weight and prognosis.”

In another area of its brief, the state writes as an example of her thinking that she believes any weight above 65 to 67 pounds is “obese.” Additionally, her guardian testified that the woman did not want a feeding tube because “she did not want to get fat,” according to court documents.

According to d’Alessandro, the woman will still receive medication, counseling and pastoral support through her palliative care.

“My client is very grateful that the court recognized her right to self-determination and is allowing her to live free from intervention,” d’Alessandro said.