Israeli Cabinet Supports Involuntary Hospitalization of Anorexia Patients

Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, an MD who sponsored the bill, hailed the decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as 'historic.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Doctors will be free to subject anorexia patients to involuntary hospitalization in cases when their lives are in imminent and immediate danger, under a new bill that received the government’s green light on Sunday..

MK Rachel Adatto ‏(Kadima‏), an MD who sponsored the bill, hailed Sunday’s decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as “historic.”

Illustration: A hospital in Israel. Credit: Tomer Neuberg

“It will directly save the lives of 35 anorexia patients yearly. The message sent today is that anorexia is a dangerous illness, and the bill is only the first step in waging a serious battle against it. The proposed legislation will put an end to the miserable situation where families had to helplessly watch their daughters wither away, since they refused to receive life-saving treatment,” Adatto, head of the Knesset’s health lobby, added.

Israeli law permits involuntary commitment only in cases when a mentally ill patient constitutes danger to himself or herself, or to the surroundings. The law does not cover mental states that are not defined as mental illness, but are still dangerous. In these cases, a patient could refuse treatment. The bill’s wording states that in such conditions the patient’s judgment is impaired and distorted, and it is immoral to accept his/her refusal to accept live-saving treatment.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that harms not only the patient’s body but also his/her judgment and mental and emotional stability. More than 1,500 new patients are reported annually. According to past data, some five percent of them are expected to die. In some cases, patients weigh 30 kg or less, but most of them refuse treatment even at this stage, thus endangering their lives. The new bill is precisely tailored for these cases.

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