Court rules anorexic woman can be force fed

Wednesday 28 May 2014 23.00
Order made by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns
Order made by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns

The High Court has made an order allowing a young woman with severe anorexia nervosa to be fed through a tube against her wishes.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns made the order this afternoon after hearing that the woman's medical condition was life threatening.

The application to allow her to be tube fed was made by lawyers for the Health Service Executive on behalf of the doctors treating her.

Lawyers for the HSE said they were making the application as a last resort and were well aware of how serious it was to ask the court to intervene in a case like this.

The court heard the woman who is 26, weighs just over 27kg or around four stone at the moment and has a body mass index of around 11.

The court heard she was in grave danger of suffering from irreversible liver failure.

The court was told that while the young woman was intelligent and articulate, she had no insight into the severity of her condition.

She did not accept she needed to gain more weight and had clearly expressed the view that she did not wish to be fed through a tube.

She needed to take in around 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day but was taking in only half that amount.  

The court heard she did not accept the doctors' need to take appropriate action to prevent her death.

The court also heard that she was capable of understanding information and communicating her wishes but was incapable of weighing up the information. 

The court was told she was emaciated and she had a high level of denial about her condition, that there had been some limited weight gain but it was not enough to take her out of danger.

The court heard she had first been treated for an eating disorder at the age of 12.

Her father told the court she was his eldest child and they had had an ongoing struggle with her condition.

He said the family had not been aware the situation had become so serious until they read a report in a newspaper. 

He said his daughter was extremely bright and articulate but did not fully grasp the problem.

Mr Justice Kearns said unfortunately this was not the first such case he had had to deal with.

He made the order allowing the hospital to tube feed her and use appropriate restraint to do so.

The case will be mentioned again in court next Thursday.

He gave permission to lawyers acting on her behalf to have her independently medically assessed.