All ISPs currently hosting a pro-eating disorder website

May 7, 2006

Each and every year, many women, of all ages, are killing themselves. These women and young girls are not committing suicide by hanging themselves or overdosing on pills. These women are suffering from anorexia nervosa. They are starving themselves to death.

However, these women are not doing it on their own; they are being aided in their slow suicide. This act of assisted suicide is illegal in 49 out of 50 states. With the help of pro-anorexia or, as they are more commonly called, "pro-ana" websites, visitors to these sites, usually young, female adolescents, looking to lose weight or who are already in the midst of an eating disorder, can obtain weight loss tips and tricks on how to hide their eating disorder from family and friends. These websites promote behaviors, which lead to osteoporosis, irregular heart beat, cardiac disease, seizures, nerve damage, heart attack and death.

Oregon is currently the only U.S. state, in which assisted-suicide is legal. Under the Death with Dignity Act, physicians are permitted to administer a lethal dose of medication to those suffering from a terminal illness. To qualify for physician-assisted suicide, one must meet a specific set of criterion. They must be at least 18 years of age, an Oregon resident, capable of making, as well as communicating health care decisions for themselves, and have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that will result in death in six month of less.

A terminal illness is an incurable disease, which is active, progressive and expected to lead to death. Anorexia is not a terminal illness. An anorectic showing up at an Oregon clinic wishing to receive assistance in ending her life, would be turned down, almost immediately, regardless of how much physical and emotional pain she was in, on the grounds that she did not meet the criteria of having a terminal illness. Though escaping from and living without an eating disorder may seem impossible to one who is suffering from an eating disorder, it is not impossible.

Anorexia can and has, many times, been cured. Though it is not easy to make a complete recovery, with the right treatment techniques and professionals, it is possible, even for those with the poorest of prognoses.

If suicide assisted by a physician is only legal in one state, and if anorexia does not meet the legal criteria, than the people who make these pro-ana websites, and those who offer these tips and tricks on "how to kill yourself", featured on these sites, have absolutely no right, legally, morally, or ethically, to be doing so. They are assisting others in suicide, which is something they have no right to be doing, seeing as we barely give medical doctors the right do so. Furthermore, to receive physician-assisted suicide, you must be of legal age to give consent.

Many of the girls who are visiting these websites are under the age of 18. They could not receive physician-assisted suicide if they were suffering from a terminal illness, therefore, it cannot possibly be legal for any stranger on the internet, who also may be under 18, to be assisting these young girls in their suicide attempts.

Research has shown that those who frequently visit pro-eating disorder websites spend more time in the hospital than those who do not visit these sites. These websites have very serious impacts on people. A young girl, thinking she is fat and needs to lose a few pounds, may stumble upon one of these websites. What happens next may be unthinkable. But, most likely she will look around the website, reading the various tips and tricks to drop weight quickly, but hide it from those around her. She will learn that you can eat whatever you want, but not gain a pound because you can purge yourself of the calories, using exercise, laxatives or vomiting. She will see pictures, or "thinspiration" of thin, rich, smiling, actresses and models.

What she will not see is pictures of emaciated bodies, with extremely dry skin and fine, laguno hair covering their bones. She will not see their eroding tooth enamel, or their ulcers, the dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. She will not see their thinning hair or heart arrhythmias. She will not see their hurt, their sadness and depression, or their broken hearts. She will not see their death. She will see the thin, glamorous models and actresses and wish to look like them. So, she will start to diet and lose weight, thinking she is in control of her actions. She will be recognized and praised for her weight loss, especially by the network of "friends" she has made through pro-ana websites.

They will encourage her to "keep up the good work" and not to "give in to the enemy (food) now". She will feel good about herself and think "I just want to lose five more pounds; Five more and then I will have the perfect body." However, she loses five more and the praise and positive comments and encouragement continue. Five turns into ten, ten into twenty, twenty into forty, forty into the hospital. All of a sudden, the young girl who just wanted to lose a few pounds and was in control of her diet, is now being controlled by her behaviors. She can't stop.

This is not one scenario, this is the course the majority of eating disorders take. This is the very reason why these websites need to be shut down. The rate of eating disorders is rising. The importance we place on beauty and our attitudes towards what we consider attractive, combined with websites such as these are contributing to the increasing prevalence of eating disorders. We must change our beauty ideal and shut down websites such as these, which are promoting self-starvation. Anorexia nervosa is a serious, life-threatening physical and an extremely emotionally painful disease that no one should ever have to experience.

Members of the pro-ana community may argue it is a violation of their rights to be censored. However, freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to help kill another person.

Pro-eating disorder websites have serious, negative repercussions for women and young girls. They are assisting women in their slow-suicide. This is not only immoral and unethical, but illegal. I strongly urge that any internet service providers currently hosting a pro-eating disorder website, shut it down. Help save lives.

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The Fight Against Illegally Assisted-Suicide, Help Save Lives, Abolish Pro-Eating Disorder Websites petition to All ISPs currently hosting a pro-eating disorder website was written by Morgan and is in the category Health at GoPetition.