HSE staff ordered to appear in High Court over anorexia decision

Mr Justice Peter Kelly rules allowing teenager to visit family was in breach of order

Mr Justice Peter Kelly: said that without medical intervention, the teenager would die. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mr Justice Peter Kelly: said that without medical intervention, the teenager would die. Photograph: Aidan Crawley


A young anorexic woman, saved from death by court intervention three months ago, was allowed to visit her family in breach of an order made by the High Court president.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly directed on Monday that whatever staff in the HSE authorised an overnight visit for the woman (19) to her family be “assembled before the court on Friday next to give a full explanation of the breach”.

The judge said he also wanted to know why the HSE was now proposing to transfer the teenager, with medical, psychiatric and physical needs, from a general hospital to a community village for elderly people.

On June 26th last, Mr Justice Kelly made orders allowing doctors to administer life-saving treatment to the woman who was in an advanced state of malnutrition. Her weight had dropped to just over six stone and her teeth were falling out in line with the classic symptoms of severe anorexia.

Mr Justice Kelly stated that without medical intervention, the woman would die. “It is not a question that she might, she will,” he said.

The woman has since been treated in an intensive care unit and in a general hospital.

Overnight visit

The judge told barrister Mairead McKenna, counsel for the HSE, that notwithstanding the orders he had made, someone in the HSE had decided it would be appropriate for the woman to be allowed an overnight visit to her family which was strictly not in her best interests.

“Somebody in the HSE decided they would breach a court order and did so. Can you identify the person who dealt with this?” he asked.

When Ms McKenna said she would have to take instructions from the HSE as to when appropriate witnesses could be brought to court to explain matters, Ms Justice Kelly said he would decide for them.

“Have whatever witnesses the HSE proposes to give evidence to the court assembled here on Friday morning at 11 o’clock to provide the court a full explanation,” he said.

The President said he was wholly uimpressed at the way the matter had been approached or that nobody could tell him who authorised the girl going back to a completely unsatisfactory family situation in breach of directions contained in his court order.

David Leahy, counsel for the committee of the girl who had been made a ward of court, said he had only been given details on Friday of the HSE’s proposals to discharge the girl from the general hospital in which she is being treated to the community village for the elderly.

Mr Leahy said that while it would be an inappropriate place for the woman, the HSE appeared to believe it would be less worse than where she was at present. The committee was not in a position to give the court a recommendation one way or the other.

The matter was adjourned until Friday.