Mental capacity key to treatment decisions

A recent court ruling that allowed a hospital to force feed a woman with anorexia highlights the necessity of having a clear mental state when making personal health-care decisions, says Elyse Sunshine.

“Generally speaking, we have the right to make decisions about our own health care,” says Sunshine. “Capable people should be able to make their own decisions even if they are decisions other people would not agree with.”

But if a medical assessment determines a patient no longer has the capacity to make such decisions, that power is taken out of their hands, she tells

In the case of a 20-year-old Quebec woman with anorexia, a judge determined she did not understand that she was in danger of dying by refusing to eat, the Canadian Press reports.

“Because of her illness, she was not able to make her own treatment decisions,” says Sunshine, who was not involved in the case and comments generally.

In order to determine capacity, a health-care professional takes into consideration several things, she adds.

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