Treating Eating Disorders: Ethical, Legal and Personal Issues

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 1999 Volume 10, Number 3
©1999 Gürze Books

(Edited by Walter Vendereycken and Pierre J.V. Beumont. A volume in Studies in Eating Disorders: An International Series, London: The Athelone Press, 1998. 286 pp.)

The 11 chapters collected in this volume speak directly to the deepest concerns facing clinicians who treat patients with serious eating disorders. That is, what do you feel about treating these tough, sometimes oppositional, often recalcitrant patients? What legal and ethical issues do you face when treating patients who don’t want to be treated, and what are the pros and cons concerned with treating patients against their will? What are the implications and special issues concerning the gender of the therapist, specifically with male caregivers working with females with eating disorders? What special issues and concerns emerge in dealing with families? How have eating disorders treatment settings been impacted by cutbacks in healthcare financing, what can professional staffs and families do to assure adequate resources to treat these patients, and what do you do when these resources aren’t forthcoming?

The chapters in this volume squarely face these concerns. In spite of the editors’ international backgrounds, the outlooks that they bring to bear on these issues are extremely pertinent for all American clinicians. The authors have had lots of experience, and many are very “street-wise.” Chapters I found to be especially valuable included Kathryn Zerbe’s chapter on transference and countertransference issues, and three chapters dealing with compulsory treatment. One of these addresses forced feeding (one chapter takes a decidedly anti-compulsory treatment stance–a “plea” against compulsory treatment). Two other very useful chapters deal with the clash between economics and treatment programs. One is from London, and the second is Arnold Andersen’s discussion of the American scene.

This book is very highly recommended for clinicians. You’ll find yourselves in good company, getting advice and perspective from many people who’ve been around the block a few times, and who are contending with the clinical problems we all find most difficult.

— J.Y.

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