Dying to starve: A comparative analysis of legal aspects relating to consent in force-feeding of both minor and adult anorexic patients

  • M. G. Karels University of South Africa
  • H. Oosthuizen University of the Free State, South Africa


The authors explore the legal complexities surrounding the force-feeding of anorexic patients. Due to the myriad of difficulties relating to anorexia nervosa, treatment is intricate. The aim of this exposition is to clarify legal issues of consent and self-determination, with regard to both adult and minor patients. In addition, the distinction between ‘irrational’ and ‘incompetent’ refusal will be discussed, with the authors maintaining that the ‘irrational’ refusal of an adult patient should be respected by the law. To come to an informed conclusion, the authors will first analyse the medical and psychological aspects of anorexia nervosa. Secondly, the South African position as shaped by the Mental Health Care Act, the Children’s Act and the National Health Act will be contrasted with the position in Great Britain in order to determine the international perspective and its contrast, or not, to South African law.


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