Monday 18 February 2019

'Critically ill' anorexic woman can be fed by nasal tube, court rules

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

A hospital has secured emergency High Court orders allowing it to feed "a critically ill" young woman with anorexia nervosa by a nasal gastric tube.

The orders were sought in respect of the woman, who has been hospitalised with the eating disorder for several weeks, currently weighs just over 36kg (5st 9lb) and has a body mass index of just 12.

While the woman has told those treating her she "does not want to die", and wants to get better, she has refused to give her consent to allow the hospital to feed her by a nasal tube.

However, the hospital says her life is in danger unless it is permitted to feed her via the tube. The woman, described in court as being highly intelligent, gets on well with medical staff and wants to beat her illness "by herself".

The hospital says there is an "irrationality to her thinking about her condition" and she is unable to comprehend the consequences of her refusal to consent to having the tube inserted.

The hospital says she does not believe her condition is so serious that her life is at risk and she lacks the capacity to manage her own affairs to the degree she can make a decision to consent to the potentially life-saving treatment.


Her doctors say she risks a sudden death unless she gets the nutrition she requires via the tube.

The hospital adds that while she has made attempts to take additional nutrition, she has not made enough progress and that it required orders allowing it to feed her via the tube.

The orders were granted following an urgent hearing before Mr Justice Robert Haughton and after he was satisfied the young woman lacked the capacity to give her consent to treatment her doctors say is required.

He acknowledged the woman's situation was "quite critical", and added the orders sought were in the young woman's "best interests".

Neither the young woman nor the hospital where she is being treated can be identified for legal reasons.

Following her refusal to consent, the hospital, represented by Peter Finlay SC, had sought various orders, including one allowing it to treat the woman by providing her with nutrition via a nasal gastric tube.

Counsel said it was feared if the woman's condition deteriorated any further there would be "fatal consequences".

"There can be no doubt about that, the hospital would not be in court otherwise," counsel said.


Evidence was also given to the court by her treating consultant physician and her consultant psychiatrist, who both outlined the seriousness of the woman's condition, and the risk to her life following her failure to consent to the tube being inserted.

The court heard she had been diagnosed with an eating disorder some years ago, but was readmitted to hospital late last year weighing just 36kg.

Mr Justice Haughton said the woman had "an irrational fear" of being fed via a tube, but there were "obvious consequences", including death, if she did not receive sufficient nutrition.

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