The Value of Being Thin
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In this thesis I will explore a conflict that medical practice is faced with, when dealing with patients who suffer from anorexia nervosa. These patients are primarily concerned with losing weight, in order to achieve their ultimate aim of being thin. This aim is in common perception and in medical practice considered as unreasonable. Therefore, medical practice is aimed at treating these patients to regain a healthy weight and prevent them from death as a result of their underweight. In medical practice, competent patients are allowed to make autonomous decisions with regards to their treatment. Although patients with anorexia nervosa hold a rather unusual balance in their values, they satisfy the required criteria for competence. Medical practice is legally required to take the decisions of these patients seriously. Since their decisions can threaten their health and their life, it is unclear how medical practice should deal with this issue. This study illustrates an ethical analysis of this conflict, and offers three lines of reasoning medical practice can accept to deal with this matter. My main aim is to illustrate which options there are for medical practice, in order to support the wellbeing of patients with anorexia nervosa. This analysis will provide an answer to the question whether or not medical practice should accept that people with anorexia nervosa value being thin as more important than their health or their life.