Teen with anorexia dies after court ruled she had the right to refuse treatment

Doctor and patient

The harrowing case raised important issues about the rights of patients with complex mental health problems (Picture: Getty)

A teen with a severe eating disorder has died two months after a judge ruled that doctors could no longer keep her alive.

The 19-year-old was banned from ‘artificial nutrition and hydration’ in May by a court assessing people’s mental capacity to make their own decisions.

Sir Jonathan Cohen announced her death in writing on Friday, describing it as “tragic and deeply disturbing.”

The Court of Protection hearing raised serious and profound questions about the individual’s rights to make their own decisions about life and death.

Evidence was presented to the judge that made it clear that the young woman, identified only as BG, wanted the right to end her own treatment if she wanted to.

Experts believed that “nothing more” could be done to help her overcome a host of complex mental health problems and it was up to the court to make a “serious” decision as to whether she had the capacity to refuse food and water substitutes.

Judge Cohen said the case was “quite unlike any other I’ve encountered” and he was forced to conclude that “the strong assumption that all steps will be taken to preserve human life unless circumstances are exceptional is not” absolute’.

He added: ‘Being asked to issue an order likely to result in the death of a conscious, highly intelligent and thoughtful person who, if otherwise in the state and mind, could accept treatment that could make her helping is as serious a decision as can be made.’

He continued: “Simply because all the evidence points in one direction, the burden doesn’t go away.

“But in the tragic and deeply disturbing circumstances of this case, I have no doubt that it is in BG’s best interests that I have made the various statements.”

The teen had had mental health problems for more than ten years and had been in hospital ‘almost continuously’ for three years.

He wrote: “BG has made it perfectly clear over a long period of time that she wants to make her own decision and exercise her own autonomy over her body.

“Her clear decision is that she wants to be discharged from the hospital, go home and decide for herself whether to take nutrition or hydration.

“This is not a sudden decision. It has been a long and cherished wish of hers.

“I have had the duty and privilege to read her diary for many weeks.

“It’s a poignant read, explaining her suffering and how to solve it.”

The teen’s parents told the court they agreed that their child should be allowed to make her own treatment decisions, even if it meant turning down further help.

An original ban on any coverage of the case was lifted in May after a journalist argued in court that it was not right to make such a serious decision in complete secrecy.

Full details of the warrant were made public after her death.

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