High Court Orders Urgent Tube Feeding for Malnourished Woman

Grainne McMahon, Content Editor (Ireland)

April 30, 2021

The High Court has made orders in the case of a severely malnourished woman in her 50s allowing her to be tube fed where the court was told that her life was 'in acute danger'.

The woman's treating psychiatrist told the court that in the absence of intervention, the woman is at 'high risk' of imminent death in the next week or two.

The orders were sought by the HSE and supported the woman's family. The court was told that the woman lacks insight into the seriousness of the situation.

Mr Justice Mark Heslin was told that the woman has a serious health condition but is not taking the necessary medication to address that. Her treating psychiatrist told the court that the woman has an eating disorder which has been compounded by starvation over the past two weeks and coupled with the woman not taking her medication for her health condition, has left the woman in a position where she is at risk of sudden death. He said the woman lacks capacity to make decisions about her medical treatment. 

The court heard that the woman in her 50s had agreed to have a cup of tea this week and medical staff hoped to build on that. The court heard that the priority was to begin nasogastric feeding within 24 hours to stabilise the woman and address the seriousness of the situation.

The HSE applied on an ex-parte basis in the context of intended wardship proceedings for a range of orders.

Mr Justice Heslin noted that the application was being taken in an effort to saving the woman's life. He granted orders permitting treatment, appointed a guardian ad litem in the case and directed that an independent medical visitor attend the woman for a capacity assessment and returned the matter to next month.