Hospital will let woman starve to death

Doctors at a Norwegian hospital have decided not to intervene to prevent a hunger-striking 31-year-old Palestinian woman from starving herself to death.

The ethics council at Arendal hospital in southern Norway concluded on Monday that the hospital did not have the legal right to force-feed the woman, whose condition is rapidly deteriorating after a three week long hunger strike, newspaper Fædrelandsvennen reports.

The woman decided to stop eating in protest against a decision not to grant her family asylum in Norway. Instead, the migration authorities ruled to send her back to the Gaza Strip with her husband and their three-year-old son, a ruling she believes will endanger their lives.

“She is certain that it’s dangerous for us in Gaza, where we come from. She says it’s better to die here in Norway that to lose each other in Palestine,” her husband told the newspaper.

The hospital’s ethical council meanwhile said Norwegian law gives the woman the inalienable right to starve herself to death if she so wishes.

“At the end of the day, she’s the one who has to decide,” said hospital chief Per Engstrand.  

“With the law as it is, I think it’s the right conclusion. Still, doctors and people close to her will continue to try to convince her to take nourishment,”

While the doctor thinks the committee has made the right decision from a legal perspective, he also noted that the law runs counter to principles of medical ethics.

“As doctors we have learned to save lives. It’s not especially nice then to see somebody refuse to take nourishment,” he said.

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