Doctors seek specialist help for 12-year-old girl with baffling eating disorder
A judge said the youngster, who weighs four and a half stones and is being restrained and force-fed, is in a frightening situation.
Doctors are trying to find specialist help for a 12-year-old girl with a baffling eating disorder whose weight has dropped to four and a half stones.
The girl, who is being cared for at a hospital near her home, would not eat, Mr Justice Hayden heard on Tuesday.
She was being restrained and force-fed through a tube three times a day, he was told.
Hospital bosses say they have been unable to find a specialist unit which can provide the treatment required by the youngster, who is 4ft 7in tall.
Mr Justice Hayden was also told that doctors had also been unable to identify the cause of the girl’s illness.
He said there was no evidence to suggest that the problem was related to “body image” or social media pressure.
Doctors were trying to work out whether the cause was “organic”, psychological, or related to a genetic mutation.
The judge said the youngster’s declining weight was “disturbing” and “frightening” and said time was not on anyone’s side.
Mr Justice Hayden analysed evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Tuesday.
He oversaw the hearing in private but ruled that the case could be reported after an application by a journalist.
The judge said publicity could benefit the girl because reports might reach specialists able to help.
I personally cannot think of anything more horrific. Mr Justice Hayden
He said he would review developments on Thursday.
Mr Justice Hayden said the girl could not be identified in media reports of the case.
He said journalists could not reveal where in the UK she lived, or which hospital authority was responsible for her care, in case such detail created an information jigsaw which revealed her identity.
Barrister Andrew Bagchi QC represented the hospital authority and told the judge how the girl’s weight had dipped below the 30kg mark.
He said another judge had approved force-feeding at another, more recent High Court hearing.
But he said the youngster was still losing weight.
Mr Justice Hayden said he wanted the girl to get support to help her cope with the trauma of being force-fed – and said he wanted to be sure there was no alternative to force-feeding.
“We have a 12-year-old girl being force-fed three times a day,” said the judge.
“I personally cannot think of anything more horrific.”
He added: “I don’t like (her) weight. It is disturbing. It is frightening. Time is not on our side.”
The girl’s parents watched the hearing via a video link so they could stay with her at hospital.
“She’s a bright kid,” her father told Mr Justice Hayden.
“She’s a beautiful kid who loves life so much, who wants to get better and get back to school and back to life.”
He added: “To see her as this husk is really horrid.”
Mr Justice Hayden was told how the girl was held down by four members of staff when force-fed.
Her father had described the episodes as “barbaric”, he heard.
Her mother could not bear to watch, the judge was told.