Saturday 16 December 2017

Anorexic woman on brink of death to be force-fed after court ruling

Judge intervenes after hearing 22-year-old is on brink of death

The woman will now be fed through a tube. Pictured posed
The woman will now be fed through a tube. Pictured posed

Tim Healy

A 22-YEAR-OLD woman who has anorexia will be fed through a tube by the order of a court.

High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said it was a life-or-death situation and he was making an order to feed the young woman immediately as her medical carers deemed appropriate.

The judge said everybody was trying to do their best for the woman, who the court heard would die if she did not get the treatment required.

The HSE made an application, supported by her parents, to have her fed by tube. None of the parties, or hospital, can be identified by order of the court.

A consultant doctor, in an affidavit to the court, said the woman urgently needed medical intervention to safeguard her life. The prognosis is so grave that she will not survive for much longer if her body does not get the nutrients it requires.

The court heard the woman had refused four out of seven oral nutritional supplements in the past 24 hours and due to her low body weight – currently at 32.8kg (five stone and two pounds) with a BMI of 12.2 – she runs the risk of collapse.

Her medical team believe she needs to restore her weight by seven kilograms to allow her to be sufficiently stable to function outside of the hospital.

She does not accept she will die if she refuses nutrition.

Making the application, Peter Finlay, for the HSE, said the woman had anorexia nervosa for 10 years and has been admitted to hospital three times.

In an affidavit, a consultant physician in gastroenterology said the woman had been hospitalised in 2012 as a result of starvation due to anorexia.


Her body weight was 26kg (four stone) and she had a body mass index (BMI) of 9.8. When she regained consciousness, she insisted she could maintain her weight and was eventually discharged.

The consultant said unfortunately there have been two re-admissions since then which had lasted for several months.

The consultant said her situation was extremely grave and her weight had dropped to 21 kg (three stone and four pounds) with a BMI of eight prior to the latest re-feeding.

Despite her actions to the contrary, she has stated she does not wish to die and has consented to all other medical treatment. A psychiatrist, in an affidavit, said the woman had agreed to oral supplements but when she restored some weight she began to refuse feeds.

Her counsel, Michael Ramsey, asked for a short adjournment to allow for an independent psychiatric report.

Mr Justice Kearns said that application can be made when the case come backs before him next Tuesday. In the meantime, he said she could be fed as her medical team deemed appropriate.

Irish Independent

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