HomeHealth Care NewsColorado Doctor Facilitated Suicide of Three Anorexia Patients

Colorado Doctor Facilitated Suicide of Three Anorexia Patients

(CV Newsfeed) – Colorado doctor and eating disorder specialist Jennifer Gaudiani, M.D., states in a medical journal she has been directly involved in steering anorexic patients toward assisted suicide.

 Gaudiani is the lead author of a paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Eating Disorders, and was the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Colorado Sun,

Gaudiani’s article explains her clinical decision to become involved in euthanizing three patients who suffered from what she described as “extreme cases” of anorexia nervosa—a psychiatric condition that prevents patients from ingesting enough nutrients due to an irrational fear of gaining weight.

‘Mercy Killing’ for Mental Health?

Colorado’s “mercy killing” law, passed in 2016, does not allow assisted suicide for mental health conditions.

Gaudiani stated that her intervention was legitimate because all three now-deceased patients she was involved with lived in states where assisted suicide under such conditions is legal.

Gaudiani’s decision to assist patients with anorexia obtain aid-in-dying medication “is jolting the psychiatric community and sparking an emotional, national debate about the ethics of prescribing lethal drugs for people with mental illnesses,” according to the Colorado Sun.

In the medical paper, the Colorado doctor identifies two patients only by their first names. The third, Alyssa Bogetz, co-wrote the paper, which was published after her death “because she felt so strongly about her right to take aid-in-dying medication,” Gaudiani told the Colorado Sun.

‘Suggestion a Form of Coercion’

Gaudiani argued assisted suicide should be available to this specific subset of people with a mental disorder, but the Colorado Sun interviewed several experts who question the ethics of her approach.

“It is in direct contradiction to treating mental illness, promoting hope for recovery, and improving quality of life for our patients,” said Angela Guarda, M.D. a psychiatrist from John Hopkins University. Guarda also told the Sun one of her patients “read the case study and deduced that she met the criteria as having ‘terminal’ anorexia.”

Patricia Westmoreland, M.D., a Denver psychiatrist with years of experience treating anorexia patients, told the Sun she is now “hugely concerned” about suicide contagion among anorexia patients battling their eating disorder. “I’m also hugely worried about our other very vulnerable psychiatric patients who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and all sorts of mental illnesses.”

Annette Hanson, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland, said “historically, we do not declare people futile when it comes to psychiatric illnesses.” The “suggestion is a form of coercion,” said Hanson.

The doctors point to Gaudiani’s contradictory admission to the Sun: “I have patients who nearly died multiple times over the course of their illness who are now married and have children.”

—CV News Feed Staff Reports

A version of this article appeared in the Catholic Vote News Feed on March 6, 2023. Reprinted with permission.

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