Doctors ask court to decide whether refugee on hunger strike can be forcibly fed


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The Independent Online

Doctors have asked a court to decide whether a refugee on hunger strike can be forcibly fed. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons and is referred to in court documents as “A”, went on hunger strike to demand that the UK Border Agency returns his passport.

But there are concerns that he may have limited mental capacity so the Court of Protection has been asked to decide whether doctors should end the hunger strike.

The Court of Protection deals with those who lack the ability to make key decisions about their life because of limited mental or physical capacity. Most hearings are held in private but cases where “serious medical treatment” is needed are frequently open to the press with the identities of patients obscured to protect their privacy.

The case centres around the thorny issue of whether the man has enough capacity to decide whether he can starve himself in protest at how he is being treated by the British authorities. A person with full capacity could not be forcibly fed by doctors if their wish to go on hunger strike was made freely.

An unnamed NHS Trust, however, wants to administer “artificial nutrition and hydration” to the man. A preliminary hearing took place this week but the court will meet for a substantive hearing on 30 January.