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ACT Health seek permision to starve patient

By GnT - 29 August 2009 40

ABC news is reporting about an elderly, mentally ill patient who is on a hunger strike, psychotically believing he won’t die and it will bring him closer to God. ACT Health, supported by the ACT public advocate which is his leagal guardian, are seeking permission from the supreme court to not force-feed him, and allow him to starve to death.

On the one hand, doctors are there to ‘do no harm’ and force feeding him will harm him and be ‘inhumane’. He has declared his wishes and the doctors want permission to abide by them.

On the other hand, allowing someone to starve to death seems inhumane also. This case has parallels to the recent case of a quadriplegic man in WA beign given court permission to starve to death, except that this man cannot legally give consent. He may have ‘clearly expressed his wishes’, but he is in fact not able to decide for himself.

UPDATED: Chief Justice Terence Higgins has ruled that the hospital must continue to force feed him. In a quote from the paper CT but which I can’t find online, he said the patient must be treated as though he “lacked consciousness or was a helpless infant” due to his inability to give informed consent.

What’s Your opinion?


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40 Responses to
ACT Health seek permision to starve patient
Thumper 6:38 pm 25 Aug 09

Would anyone here let a suicidal person jump off a bridge if they could stop them?

astrojax 6:32 pm 25 Aug 09

‘able’, not “bale”

astrojax 6:32 pm 25 Aug 09

the op mentioned the wa case – i contend that the parallels end with that case in the point that he was of sound mind and bale to make rational decisions as to the chances of his otherwise longevity and well being for that quantifiable period, where this chap seemingly has no such capacity and to acquiesce to these stated desires would be tantamount to community murder. we, as a community, have a duty of care to see that this man is not taken at his word, which is demonstrably (at least allegedly) unsound.

jesus notwithstanding.

sunshine 6:05 pm 25 Aug 09

he’s defianatly not able to make decisions in his best interests so someone else should and it doesn’t involve starving him to death. i’m sure we don’t know all the facts therefore it makes it even harder to say what should/needs to be done. If he has improved with medication in the past why not now? i guess i’m not one to give up especially with people who have mental illnesses. hard indeed however he should be helped to recover

caf 4:50 pm 25 Aug 09

This appears to be the concern:

They gave evidence saying that when they used gastric tubes to force-feed the man he resisted violently and pulled them out.

His psychiatrist, Dr Judith Raymond, told the court she believes the amount of force required to keep him alive is inhumane.

Is there a reason why sedating him until the psychotic episode is over isn’t a possibility?

youami 4:41 pm 25 Aug 09

Pommy bastard said :

BUT! What if Jesus has told him he does not need to eat or drink? Who are we to question Jesus, or indeed act against his will?

This could be the evidence that us Athiests have been waiting for. If God keeps this man alive without food then hallelujah! But anyway, Australia is apparently a Christian nation of sorts so why isn’t the majority of God-fearing Australians celebrating this man’s wishes and believing that God *will* save him? Surely this cannot be considered suicide as he has the belief he will be with God. Isn’t this a matter of faith? And sure, for Theists, death will bring them closer to God.

Seriously though, I feel concerned for the welfare of this man, not because he is not being fed –that is a separate issue– but because he is being used (as Granny rightly states) as a precedent for dealing with the mentally ill who cannot make informed decisions in situations that are detriment to their health.

Granny 4:15 pm 25 Aug 09

Whilst I can see both sides, I would consider this to be a dangerous precedent. People with mental illness are frequently suicidal whilst having an episode, where they are not while the condition is being managed. What they want while unwell is not necessarily what they would choose at other times, and religious delusions often go hand in hand with mental illness. I think it is more important to assist them to recover than to assist them to suicide.

Jivrashia 4:11 pm 25 Aug 09

Keep a schooner of cold beer on his bedside table and see how long he can last…

“I swear, it just evaporated into thin air!”

poptop 3:50 pm 25 Aug 09

Pommy bastard said :

BUT! What if Jesus has told him he does not need to eat or drink? Who are we to question Jesus, or indeed act against his will?

Fair point; with a couple of very special caveats, you can’t go to heaven if you don’t ever die.

Members of our community should discuss these matters and demand to understand the issues and facts. Suggesting this sort of thing should be farmed out to the medicos, guardians, judiciary or (the gods forfend!!) the Canberra City Council to decide, needs to take a good hard look at how democracy is supposed to work.

Clown Killer 3:49 pm 25 Aug 09

My understanding is that the public advocat is seeking to ensure that the traeting doctors are not legally exposed if they follow the patients wishes. Still I doubt that these people are paid enough for the work that they do and the decisions that they have to make.

Pommy bastard 3:17 pm 25 Aug 09

BUT! What if Jesus has told him he does not need to eat or drink? Who are we to question Jesus, or indeed act against his will?

GnT 3:14 pm 25 Aug 09

PBO said :

Without having all the information and we wont ever have it, this is something that non of us have any say over aside from the patient, his doctors and family (if he has them).

Rubbish!

As a society we have a say (through the court) in how we treat our most vulnerable.

Since the public advocate is his guardian, I doubt he has family, so the public has a say as his guardian.

PBO 2:49 pm 25 Aug 09

Without having all the information and we wont ever have it, this is something that non of us have any say over aside from the patient, his doctors and family (if he has them).

I agree with poptop and he should be allowed to have pain relief.

Clown Killer 2:46 pm 25 Aug 09

A very dificult issue indeed. I’m glad I’m not the one having to call the shots.

poptop 2:34 pm 25 Aug 09

This is the sort of discussion that is going to get heated.

This is not about doctors doing harm, this is about Duty of Care and letting doctors not intervene.

For my 2 cents, the man has lived with his illness for a really long time and seems likely to have been unhappy, unwell and afraid for most of that time. If being allowed to make his own choices will give him any peace of mind at all, I reckon we should let him get on with it.

I reckon they should be permitted to provide pain relief though.

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