Monday 10 December 2018

Force-fed anorexic woman weighing 33.1kg is making progress but 'far from out of the woods', court told

The woman is being fed via naso-gastric tube. Pictured posed.
The woman is being fed via naso-gastric tube. Pictured posed.

Tim Healy

A judge has made orders permitting the continued tube feeding of a severely anorexic young woman who was admitted to hospital in a critical condition.

On first admission last month, the woman, aged in her twenties, weighed 29kg and had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 11 in circumstances where the evidence was that a BMI below 13.5 is critical and life-threatening, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said.

He made orders on that occasion permitting naso-gastric tube feeding and other treatment and, while some progress has since been made, and the woman now weighs 33.1kg, she is “far from out of the woods”, the judge said.

The court heard the hospital treating the woman deals with about 14 similar cases annually.

The woman’s case had come before the judge via an application by the hospital aimed at having her made a ward of court in circumstances where it was argued she lacked the necessary capacity to make appropriate decision in the best interests of her health and welfare.

When the case returned before the judge on Monday, Barry O’Donnell SC, for the hospital, asked the judge to continue the tube-feeding and other orders.

There had been no response by the woman to the wardship application indicating either consent or opposition and the HSE was investigating possible placements, he said.

Brendan Savage BL, for the woman, said there was no objection to wardship in circumstances where the woman and her parents lacked financial resources to commission additional medical reports.

Counsel said the woman wants the orders relaxed so she could have unsupervised visits to the hospital coffee shop with her parents. She also sought relaxation of the intensity of application of the naso-gastric tube and was concerned about any plan to transfer her to the UK for treatment.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he was glad there had been improvement in the woman’s condition but he considered it was necessary to continue the existing orders unaltered.

The woman’s health remains in a parlous and perilous condition and it is for the clinical team dealing with her to decide whether or not coffee shop visits or relaxation of the intensity of the tube feeding was appropriate, he said. The court would not interfere with their clinical judgment.

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