Friday 13 December 2019

Young woman suffering from anorexia may be forcefed for another two weeks, High Court decides

The young woman had been dramatically losing weight because of anorexia nervosa.
The young woman had been dramatically losing weight because of anorexia nervosa.

Ray Managh

A young woman who suffers from severe anorexia nervosa may be force fed if necessary for a further two weeks, the President of the High Court decided today.

Tim O’Leary SC, counsel for the Health Service Executive, told Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns that the HSE, the woman herself  and her family had agreed to the extension of mandatory court orders which were made three months ago.

In May last the court heard that the woman, a student aged in her twenties who suffered from eating disorders since she was 12, weighed just over 30kg  (4stones 10lbs).  There had been serious concerns about her physical and mental health.

Judge Kearns had been told the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was detained involuntarily in hospital since April under the provisions of the Mental Treatment Acts after her weight had dropped as low as 24kg, three-and-a-half stones.

He heard that doctors had certified she did not have the necessary mental capacity to appreciate the severity of her condition and her life and health were at risk unless she received the required levels of nutrition.

Judge Kearns heard, when the case came back before him in July, that the woman had agreed to co-operate with a feeding regime and no force feeding had been necessary.

A consultant psychiatrist told the court in July that arrangements had been made, if she continued gaining weight, to transfer the woman to a psychiatric facility which had access to medical specialists in eating disorders.

The doctor had said she was out of immediate danger but had a condition requiring ongoing care and needed to develop trust. The woman’s father had told the court “trust” was a big issue for her. 

Judge Kearns today extended the orders which allow doctors, if necessary, to force feed the woman including by way of a nasogastric tube inserted after sedation.  The matter will be reviewed on September 24.

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