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High Court rules that woman weighing five stone and refusing food in HSE care may be force-fed

The court heard that the woman has a long history of anorexia nervosa.

The young woman was admitted to the healthcare facility last Thursday.
The young woman was admitted to the healthcare facility last Thursday.
Image: Shutterstock

A YOUNG WOMAN who is refusing food and is in imminent danger of dying from starvation in a healthcare facility, may be force-fed, the High Court ordered today.

Barrister Paul Brady, counsel for the HSE told Mr Justice Michael MacGrath, that the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, currently weighed less than four stones and five pounds, 27.7 kg.

Brady, who appeared with Keelin Cowhey of Mason Hayes and Curran Solicitors, told the court the woman was in a critical condition and deteriorating. She had been admitted to the facility last Thursday and transferred to a medical ward on Monday.

“Doctors report that there is an obvious necessity for force-feeding otherwise the woman will die,” Brady said. He told the court the woman’s family was supporting the HSE’s application.

Brady said there was a suicidal issue and it was now a life or death matter. It was absolutely essential that force-feeding take place as soon as practicable.  Her blood levels and other vital signs were critically already low.

He told Judge MacGrath the woman had a long history of acute anorexia nervosa stretching back into her teenage years and had a background of an emotionally unstable personality. She currently did not have the capacity to make decisions relating to her own health.

Brady said the woman’s family would be asking the court within the next few weeks to formally take her into wardship. He said the matter should be returned to the court in a fortnight’s time to facilitate a representative appearance on the woman’s behalf prior to any order for wardship being made.

He said the HSE’s ex parte application was for the court to direct the force-feeding of the woman. Other orders being sought related to details of treatment.

Judge MacGrath said it appeared from medical reports, which he had considered very carefully, that there was no other reasonable alternative and he made the orders sought including directions permitting the use of reasonable force and restraint to facilitate the treatment. 

He also made an order allowing the Garda Siochana leave to restrain and return the woman to the care centre should she abscond.

Brady said an adjournment until mid-September would allow an opportunity for the woman to be represented before any further orders were made.  A solicitor had already undertaken to act in her interests.

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Ray Managh

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