Hospital ordered to feed anorexic woman via tube

A 22-year-old woman who weighed just over 21kg (46lb) on admission to hospital is to be fed through a tube by court order.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said it was a life or death situation and he was making an order to feed the woman, who has the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, immediately as her medical carers deem appropriate.

He said everybody was trying to do their best for the woman, who is refusing nutritional feeds in hospital and whom the court heard will die if she does not get treatment.

The HSE’s application to the court was supported by the woman’s parents. None of the parties or the hospital involved can be identified.

A consultant doctor said the woman urgently requires medical intervention to safeguard her life and the prognosis is so grave she will not survive much longer if her body does not get the nutrients it requires.

The High Court heard the woman had refused four out of seven oral nutritional supplements in the last 24 hours and, due to her low body weight — currently 32.8kg — she runs the risk of collapse. Her medical team believe she needs to restore 7kg to allow her to be sufficiently stable to function outside of hospital. The woman does not accept she will die if she refuses further nutrition leading to weight restoration.

Making the application, counsel for the HSE, Peter Finlay SC, said it was an application of an urgent nature. The woman, he said, had anorexia nervosa for 10 years and has been admitted to hospital three times.

In an affidavit to the court, a psychiatrist said the woman had agreed to oral supplements but when she regained some weight she could no long agree to a continuous plan of refeeding and began to refuse feeds. The multi-disciplinary team who are looking after her believes she does want treatment but is unable to accept it due to the severity of her anorexia nervosa.

Counsel for the woman, Michael Ramsey BL, asked the court for a short adjournment to allow an independent psychiatric report. Mr Justice Kearns agreed to make the order


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