Court rules woman with anorexia to continue being tube fed

Friday 14 March 2014 17.51
Mr Justice Kearns said he would continue the order and will review the case on 9 May
Mr Justice Kearns said he would continue the order and will review the case on 9 May

A 22-year-old woman who suffers from anorexia nervosa is to be fed through a tube in hospital for another period, the President of the High Court has decided after being told she has gained weight.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told the young woman has reached a weight of 37.9kg and may be in a position to proceed to a new weight maintenance programme once she reaches her 40kg target.

The court made the tube-feeding order in January after it heard the woman had refused four out of seven oral nutritional supplements in one 24-hour period.

It was stated that due to her low body weight, which in January stood at 32.8kg with a BMI of 12.2, she ran the risk of collapse.

Peter Finlay SC, for the Health Service Executive, said it was agreed that the court order permitting tube feeding was a "life-saving" exercise.

He said the multi-disciplinary team looking after the woman plan to put a programme in place for weight maintenance, once she reaches 40kg and her BMI is 15.

That programme would last eight to ten weeks after which the HSE wished the court to reassess the situation in relation to whether the feeding order should stay in place.

The order remains in place pending a further court order.

Michael Ramsey SC, for the woman, said there was no doubt the progress made had been excellent and the woman believed the court order and the work of the multi-disciplinary team had saved her life.

However, Mr Ramsey said, the woman felt "voiceless" at each court hearing to assess her progress and wanted the court to consider suspending the feeding order for seven days to allow her proceed to the weight maintenance programme.

In light of that application, Mr Justice Kearns asked the consultant psychiatrist treating the woman to outline her opinion as to whether the woman was ready for the maintenance programme.

The psychiatrist said the woman has become distressed in the last few weeks by her weight gain and her blood pressure and glucose levels were also not yet stable.

In her view, the woman's body was not ready for the maintenance programme and it was too early to consider it at this stage, the psychiatrist said.

Prior to the granting of the court order, the woman did not believe she was going to die but she has now learned the feeding process is essential to live, the psychiatrist added.

Mr Justice Kearns said he would continue the order and will review the case on 9 May.

The judge also asked the psychiatrist to pass on words of encouragement to the woman to the effect, if she achieves the weight gain target, the team will work with her in the maintenance programme.

The judge added he would read the correspondence handed into the court from the woman which, her counsel said, was written in sequence through the feeding programme and showed how her insight into her condition has improved.