Court allows hospital take steps aimed at saving life of extremely underweight woman

High Court heard woman’s BMI was one of the lowest seen by a consultant and she was refusing food

The Health Services Executive has secured an emergency High Court order allowing it to take steps aimed at saving the life of an extremely underweight woman who is at risk of sudden death.

The woman, who is in her thirties, presented at a hospital in recent days very malnourished.

Doctors at the hospital say she is extremely underweight, at 28-29kgs and has a very low Body Mass Index of 10.5. She is very weak and has no energy.

Her doctors say that while she did eat some food following her admission she is currently refusing to eat anything, and lacks insight into the fact that her life is at risk.


The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has also refused to allow staff at the hospital carry out basic medical tests on her, including taking her temperature or monitor her heart rate.

The doctors say that the woman lacks the capacity to understand what is happening to her.

On Friday afternoon the HSE applied to the High Court for orders allowing it to take various steps, including feeding her by nasal gastric tube, aimed at saving her life.

The orders also prevent the woman from leaving the hospital.

Seeking the interim orders Donal McGuinness for the HSE and the hospital said the results of the limited amount of tests that the woman has allowed to be performed on her have yielded very worrying results.

She is, counsel said, in imminent risk of suffering a sudden death.

Lacks capacity

In reply to questions from Mr McGuinness, a consultant doctor involved in the woman’s treatment said the woman does not realise how ill she is, and lacks the capacity to make any decision regarding treatment.

The doctor said the woman’s BMI was one of the lowest he has seen. The consultant said she has no energy, can barely raise her arms or sit up.

When he spoke to her about her condition the woman said that maybe she was “a little gaunt”.

The consultant also said it has been impossible to date to get a proper medical history of the woman to see if she suffers from any mental condition.

It was believed she was last medically assessed almost a decade ago.

There was a suggestion that the woman suffered from a condition known as agoraphobia, commonly known as a fear of leaving their home. However, the consultant said this could not currently be confirmed and required investigation.

It is also expected that an application will be made to make the woman a ward of court.

The orders were granted, on an ex parte basis, by Mr Justice Max Barrett on Friday afternoon's vacation sitting of the High Court.

The Judge said “heaven help her” adding that he “hoped she gets better soon.”

The judge said that as well as granting the orders allowing the doctors to take steps they believe are necessary to save her life, he was satisfied to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the woman’s interests.

He further made orders that an independent medical visitor compiles a report on the woman for the court before adjourning the case to a date in October.