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Irish and English Judges Join Hands to Save Anorexic Girl

HandsIn a striking example of cross-border judicial cooperation, a family judge in London has given effect to an order of the President of the Irish High Court that a gravely anorexic Irish girl should receive urgent treatment at a psychiatric centre of excellence in England.

The girl’s eating disorder was accompanied by major depressive episodes. Although she did not require restraint, she had to be fed through a nasal tube. She attempted suicide by strangling herself with her clothes almost every day and had to spend much of her time in a padded space. She was unable to tolerate even a bed in her room, believing that she did not deserve one.

Following an application by the Health Service Executive of Ireland, the President made her a ward of court and found that, due to her disordered thinking, she lacked capacity to make important decisions for herself. Whilst Ireland has many excellent medical facilities, specialist units for the treatment of serious eating disorders are in short supply.

Her move from Dublin to a psychiatric unit in London had already been authorised by judges in Ireland and England, but her condition there had continued to worsen. In those circumstances, the President ordered her transfer to a psychiatric intensive care facility in the north east of England.

In recognising that order and directing its enforcement in England, the judge in London was entirely satisfied that the girl had been given a proper opportunity to be heard by the Irish High Court and that her human rights had been accorded full respect. The treatment that she required in England was extremely urgent and any curtailment of her liberty which that involved would be proportionate to the objective of promoting her health and protecting her life.