Thursday 30 March 2017

High Court rules woman with anorexia nervosa may be force-fed through a tube

The Four Courts in Dublin
The Four Courts in Dublin

By Saurya Cherfi

A young woman with anorexia nervosa may be force-fed through a tube if necessary, the High Court has ruled, after hearing she was in a life-threatening situation.

Barrister Sarah McKechnie, for the HSE, said the High Court had directed last year that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, be force-fed after hearing she was significantly underweight and “in danger of losing her life.”

Ms McKechnie today told Mr Justice Raymond Fulham that the orders had been lifted earlier this year and the woman had returned home following her discharge from hospital.

The court heard the woman had initially attended her follow up care plan, but had last week tried to take her own life.

Her mother had brought her to hospital, where she had received treatment.

She had been transferred to a specialised psychiatric unit as a voluntary patient, but had been unable to accept the treatment and had tried to leave the unit. The court heard she had also expressed suicidal thoughts.

Ms McKechnie said the woman’s weight had dropped to 38.6 kg (six stone) and she had low blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. Counsel said her kidney and liver function were abnormal, and without adequate nutrition, her condition would continue to deteriorate.

Judge Fulham heard the woman was currently in a life-threatening situation and was unfortunately lacking capacity regarding her treatment.

The judge, who heard the doctors intended to use nasogastric tube feeding, reinstated orders that the woman be force-fed if necessary. He also directed that her father be reappointed as her guardian.

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