Treatment in UK sought for Irishman with severe anorexia

Man has had eating disorder involving hospitalisation since his teens, High Court hears

The man’s father told the judge the situation is “very worrying”

A place in a specialist eating disorder hospital in the UK is being urgently sought for a young man with severe anorexia nervosa, the High Court has heard.

The case of the man, in his 20s, is believed to be the first before the Irish courts concerning a male with anorexia.

The man has had an eating disorder since his teens, involving sometimes being hospitalised for long periods. His condition is regarded as severe and he was deemed last month to be detainable under provisions of the Mental Health Acts.

All the evidence suggests the man’s condition is not getting any better and he needs specialist help not available in this jurisdiction, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said.


When the case was before the judge on Monday, the man’s parents were in court. His father told the judge the situation is “very worrying”. While they believe the HSE and their son’s treating team here are doing an excellent job, the parents wanted them to redouble their efforts to urgently find him a place in a specialist unit in the UK.

Specialist units

They had been told there might be such a place in an English unit within a month but now it is being suggested it may be two months, the father said. They believed any step back might be critical and hoped the HSE would explore whether there are places in other UK units or even an interim place here.

Peter Finlay SC, for the HSE, said it was also exploring options in Scotland and doing everything it could.

Both Mr Finlay and the man’s father expressed hope he will withdraw his objection to an application to have him made a ward of court. Mr Finlay asked the matter be adjourned for a short period to allow for a full and proper conversation with the man about his wishes.

The wardship application is being brought on the basis of uncontested medical and psychiatric evidence that the man lacks the necessary capacity to make appropriate decisions about his treatment.

Mr Justice Kelly said, while the court was told the man’s objection is “half-hearted” and may not proceed, it had been notified and the court must address that.

There are often mistaken views concerning the wards of court jurisdiction, the judge said. That exists to protect those who cannot make decisions about their own affairs and the idea is the court makes those decisions for the benefit of the ward concerned and in their best interests.

The judge said he would adjourn the matter for a week to allow the man to consider the position. Time is “a worrying factor” in this matter and, unless the man could produce evidence to contradict the unanimous medical evidence, including that of an independent court appointed psychiatrist, already before the court, the order for wardship would be made, he said.

The specialist units in the UK often produce very good results in these cases, the judge added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times