Values Exchange


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You are continuing to care for Anne in hospital. She is still refusing to eat. She is often tearful and will not communicate with staff, even avoiding eye contact if she can.

Out of the blue, as you are passing her bed, she calls you over and thrusts an envelope in your hand. She says: “Please read this, it is my story.” Then she turns away.

You decide to open the envelope privately. This is what the letter says:

“My name is Anne and the person you think you see is not who I really am. You see a failure, a sick and weak person, but I am not like that. I don’t accept that.

Do you know why I am not eating? Is it a sickness? Is it a disease to be treated? Am I a basket case? Or could it be something else?

What do you know about my life? Do you know where I went to school? Do you know what it was like? Do you know my family? Do you know what happened when I went to Uni? Do you know me at all?

When I was at school I had the chance to leave home to go to a Boarding School in the city. I won a scholarship - did you know that? - so I had my own money. I desperately wanted to go but my father refused to let me go. He said I wasn’t ready for it, not mature enough, so I was not allowed to go and I had to return the money too. He said he loved me too much to see me leave. That was a joke. Since I was 11 he has been abusing me.

I have not told anyone this before.

As soon as I was 18 I left home. I took any job I could and waited to start Uni. I was studying psychology - don’t laugh - but I got involved with a boy. He was just what I needed, the opposite of my father it seemed. He was not interested in studying and said the University was a sham - just part of a sick system designed to control us all. So I spent all my time with him - hanging out, drinking, smoking weed, reading all sorts of stuff, making plans to change the world. It was wonderful.

Then out of the blue he left me. He said I had become too dependent on him. Too clingy. I needed him too much.

Everything crashed around my ears then. I had no desire to go to class. I felt I needed to punish myself so I found a gym and worked out every day until I was exhausted - then I could sleep and forget him, sometimes.

I started to get fitter and thinner and I liked it. This was something for me and just me. Men found me more and more attractive but I had no interest in them.  I needed this freedom.

Then I injured my back and I got really really upset - like my lifeline had been taken away. So I went to the GP and he was very officious, I would say that. He wanted to do many checks. I went along with that but really just wanted my back to get better. The next time I went in - as he’d asked - he was stern and powerful and he scared me almost as much as my Dad used to. Then he said I had to go to hospital and if I didn’t agree the police would take me in. He said I had to do everything the hospital told me and that I was being a silly girl. He actually said that to me.

So now I’m here in prison and you want to put tubes down my throat to make me eat when I don’t feel like eating and I just want my back better. What are doing to me? You have no right to do this to me. You are abusing me the same as my father did. You are making me sad, angry and ashamed. You are the sick ones. You are sick bastards.

I’m writing this and giving it to you because I think you might understand - someone has to.

All I want is to go home and for my back to get better. Then I will make decisions for myself. I have had time to think and I think I need to study and I think I need to eat better and do less exercise and get some balance. I do. But there is no way I am going to do what you want when I am here against my will. Set me free and let me live my life. Please.

Anne Petersham.”

Now you know more about Anne please explain how you feel and what you think should be done. 


What do you think should be done for Anne?
Have you changed your mind about your original stance on force feeding?
What are the most important issues to address at this stage?
Can this issue be resolved by a single professional intervention?