Judge orders anorexic woman at risk of malnutrition and death to be tube fed
Doctor to assess woman in context of inquiry as to whether she should be made a ward of court
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said he was satisfied the orders are necessary having regard to the serious risk to the woman’s health and life. Photograph: Collins
The HSE has secured court orders permitting the tube feeding and hospital detention of a woman with anorexia nervosa said to be at serious risk of malnutrition and death.
An independent medical doctor is to assess the woman in the context of an inquiry as to whether she should be made a ward of court and the judge appointed a guardian at litem to represent her interests in that regard. A date for the inquiry will be fixed later.
The various orders were sought on an ex parte basis on Monday by Patricia Hill SC, for the HSE.
Counsel said the woman, aged in her 50s, has a history of anorexia, schizoid personality traits and other conditions.
She was admitted to hospital in December and readmitted in early January with a weight of 36.2kgs, representing a loss of some 10kgs on her weight on discharge the previous month. She had stopped her medication, severely restricted her dietary intake and increased her exercise.
Ms Hill said the HSE had no information about the woman’s family circumstances but the guardian might be able to establish those.
In an affidavit, her treating psychiatrist said she had refused necessary medications and vitamin supplements following this latest admission and her weight has fallen further, necessitating her transfer to a medical ward.
Although she had shown a very slight weight gain since her transfer to the medical ward, she remained at serious risk of malnutrition, metabolic failure and death, he said.
Naso-gastric feeding, he believed, was necessary, ideally within days, to protect her health and life.
She lacks insight, denying there is any problem with her weight, he added. In his view, she lacked capacity to make decisions about her welfare and requires court protection to ensure her safety.
Granting the orders, Mr Justice Kelly said the medical evidence was, although the woman has shown a slight weight gain since her move to the medical ward, her weight remains inadequate and she is at serious risk of malnutrition and death unless her oral intake can be placed at safe levels.