Management of hunger strike: A medical, ethical and legal conundrum

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
Hunger strike is a protest where an informed person refuses essential nourishment with the intention of accomplishing a specific goal. Hunger strikes conflict with medical, ethical, humanitarian and legal values. A multidisciplinary approach is important when dealing with hunger strike patients. On one hand, there is the wish to preserve life, and on the other to respect the strikers’ autonomy and their wishes, values and advanced directives (or living will). Most hunger strikes are short-lived, but in complex and prolonged circumstances, legal advice must be sought from health service solicitors and a doctor’s medical indemnity organisation. There is an emergent need to have defined guidelines for the management of these hunger strikes to be followed.

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