New Perspectives on Paternalism and Health Care

Volume 35 of the series Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy pp 183-199

Paternalism in Psychiatry: Anorexia Nervosa, Decision-Making Capacity, and Compulsory Treatment

  • André MartensAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Hamburg Email author 

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Decision-making capacity or mental competence is one of the most intensively discussed concepts in contemporary bioethics and medical ethics. In this paper I argue that anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder primarily afflicting adolescent girls and young women, seriously challenges what I label the traditional account of decision-making capacity. In light of these results, it may in addition be necessary to rethink a certain popular type of paternalistic argumentation that grounds the justification of compulsory treatment, for example of anorexic persons who refuse treatment, on a lack of decision-making capacity.