Sunday 18 March 2018

'Traumatised' girl (16) admitted to hospital after serious concerns for her mental and physical health

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Aodhan O'Faolain

A chronically traumatised teenage girl living in a direct provision centre since last year is now in hospital on foot of High Court orders obtained by the HSE arising from serious concerns for her mental and physical health.

The 16-year-old girl, who was exposed to violence in her native Africa, has been diagnosed with psychosis and spends much of her days praying and fasting and standing before windows trying to soak up light which she perceives as "goodness".

She believes she can communicate with saints and believes she is praying to save the Irish people from evil.

She came here with her mother and brother in 2015 and all three have been living since last year in a direct provision centre.

Earlier this month, she was taken from the centre to a hospital which referred her to a child and adolescent unit on foot of concerns she had a psychotic illness.

Due to long periods not eating or taking fluids, her food and fluid intake is respectively about 44 per cent and 33 per cent of that necessary for her adequate growth and development.

She has displayed little insight into her condition and refused to co-operate with staff trying to take her pulse or bloods, leading to ambulances being called a number of times to bring her to hospital for acute interventions, the court heard. She only agreed to go to hospital on one occasion.

Due to doctors' concerns about her deteriorating condition and refusal to comply with treatment, lawyers for the HSE applied to a night time sitting of the High Court last week to have her made a ward of court, moved to hospital and treated as doctors considered in her best interests.

Psychiatric reports expressed the opinion, due to her illness, she lacked insight to make informed decisions abut her treatment and her physical health was in danger, which in turn was impacting on her mental health and ability to function. 

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, made interim orders to effect her transfer to hospital and returned the matter to Monday when counsel for the HSE said she is now in hospital.

The girl's mother was in court and supported the HSE's application, the judge also heard.

In evidence, a psychiatrist said, while the girl appeared to be taking more fluids, her mental state remains precarious and she does not believe she needs to be in hospital. Her recovery could take weeks, the doctor added.

On foot of that evidence and reports, the judge made the girl a ward of court. He continued orders permitting doctors to administer - against her will, if necessary -  such treatment as they considered to be in her best interests.

Other orders permit gardai to search for, arrest and return her to hospital should she escape from there.

The matter has been adjourned to next week for reasons including allowing the girl's mother consider if she or another family member wishes to be appointed as the girl's wardship committee.

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