Monday 19 March 2018

Court grants doctors permission to treat girl refusing to eat or drink

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

Doctors were told by a High Court judge today they could administer lifesaving treatment to a teenage girl who is refusing to eat any food or drink any fluids.

Mr Justice Michael White was told by a consultant doctor treating the girl  that she was at risk of death due to her refusal to eat or drink anything.

Judge White, in granting court orders directing intervention in the girl’s treatment, described the situation as "very tragic".   He also made orders precluding the media reporting any detail that would tend to identify the girl.

Judge White was told that the girl, who is under 16 years of age, stopped taking any food or drink approximately a week ago. Her doctor said that when the girl was admitted several days ago to hospital, where she is currently being treated, a nasogastric tube was fitted.

The court heard that the teenager at one stage removed the tube but later allowed to be re-inserted.  She continued to refuse to allow any fluid or nutrition to be administered to her via the tube. 

Judge White heard medical evidence that, while her situation was being monitored as best as possible, if it was allowed continue those treating her feared she would become severely dehydrated, leading to loss of consciousness and death.

He was told the girl, who has a psychological condition,  expressed suicidal thoughts when she was admitted to hospital but it was not known why she was refusing to take any nutrition or fluids.

Conor Dignam SC, for the Child and Family Agency, told the court that the girl had been the subject of care orders made by the District Court and had recently spent time at a secure facility.

He said all parties, relevant to the application and obviously apart from the child, were consenting to court orders being made.

Judge White said that, given the circumstances, he was prepared to grant orders including one permitting the teen's doctors administer treatment they deemed clinically appropriate for promoting her health and welfare, irrespective if such treatment was refused by the girl.

He adjourned the matter to a date later this month. 

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