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Hospital receives High Court order to feed 'critically ill' woman with anorexia through tube

The hospital says her life is in danger unless it is permitted to feed her via the tube.

File photo
File photo
Image: Anukool Manoton via Shutterstock

A HOSPITAL HAS secured emergency High Court orders allowing it to feed ”a critically ill” young woman with anorexia nervosa by a nasogastric tube.

The orders were sought in respect of the woman, who has been hospitalised with the eating disorder for several weeks, currently weighs just 5 stone 6 pounds and has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of just 12.

While the woman has told those treating her  “she does not want to die”, and wants to get better she has refused to give her consent to allow the hospital  feed her by a nasal tube.

However, the hospital says her life is in danger unless it is permitted to feed her via the tube.

The woman, described in court has being highly intelligent and gets on well with medical staff, wants to beat her illness “by herself”.

‘Irrational thinking’

The hospital says there is an “irrationality to her thinking about her condition” and she is unable to apprehend the consequences of her refusal to consent to having the tube inserted.

The hospital says she does not believe her condition is so serious that her life is at risk and she lacks the capacity to manage her own affairs to the degree she can make a decision to consent to the potentially life saving treatment.

Her doctors say she risks a sudden death unless she gets the nutrition she requires via the tube.

The hospital added while she has made attempts to take additional nutrition in recent days  she has not made enough progress and that it requires orders allowing it to feed her via the tube.

The orders were granted following an urgent hearing before Justice Robert Haughton  after he was satisfied the young woman lacks the capacity to give her consent to treatment her doctors say is required.

The judge, acknowledging the woman ‘s situation is “quite critical” added the orders sought were in the young woman’s “best interests.”

Neither the young woman, nor the hospital where she is being treated can be identified for legal reasons.

Previous legal requests

Following her refusal to consent the hospital, represented by Peter Finlay SC, had sought various orders including one allowing it treat the woman by providing her with nutrition via a nasogastric tube.

Counsel said it was feared if the woman’s condition deteriorated any further there would be “fatal consequences”.

“There can be no doubt about that, the hospital would not be in court otherwise,” counsel said.

Evidence was also given to the court by her treating consultant physician and her consultant psychiatrist who both outlined the seriousness of the woman’s condition, and the risk to her life following her failure to consent to the tube being inserted.

The court heard she had been diagnosed with an eating disorder some years ago, but was re-admitted to hospital late last year weighing just 5 stone 6 pounds.

The court also heard from the young woman’s court-appointed guardian Bernadette Parte.

She told the court that the woman, who had on one previously occasion been fed via a tube, was fearful of the process.

She said the young woman had been aware of the application to the court for some days  and while she was not opposing the orders she was not prepared to consent to the orders sought.

The woman’s mother told the court that she supported the hospital’s application “100%”.

In his ruling Justice Haughton said the woman had “an irrational fear” of being fed via a gastric tube, but there were “obvious consequences” including sudden death if she did not receive sufficient nutrition in the short term.

After granting the orders Justice Haughton adjourned the matter to a date later this month.

When the matter returns before the court on 15 January an application will be made before the President of the High Court Justice Peter Kelly to make the young woman a ward of court.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

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Aodhan O Faolain

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