After completing this activity, practitioners will be better able to:
• Discuss the growing body literature emphasizing moderation and harm-reduction in patients with severe and enduring anorexia nervosa (SE-AN)
• Outline and discuss the legal, ethical, and medical challenges inpatient providers face when treating patients with SE-AN
Patients with severe and enduring anorexia nervosa (SE-AN) present numerous clinical and ethical challenges for the hospital psychiatrist. Patients typically come to the hospital in a state of severe medical compromise. Common difficulties in the period of acute medical stabilization include assessment of decision-making capacity and the right to decline treatment, as well as legally complex decisions pertaining to administering artificial nutrition over the patient’s objection. Following acute medical stabilization, the psychiatric consultant must decide whether psychiatric hospitalization for continued treatment is indicated, and if so, whether involuntary hospitalization is indicated. The standard of care in these situations is unclear. Pragmatic issues such as lack of appropriate facilities for specialized treatment are common. If involuntary hospitalization is not approved or not pursued, there may be difficulty in determining whether, when, and how to involve palliative care consultants to guide further management. These cases are complex and largely reside in a medico-legal and ethical gray area. This article discusses the difficulties associated with these cases and supports a growing body of literature emphasizing moderation and harm-reduction in patients with SE-AN. Physician-assisted dying (PAD) is also discussed.