Anorexic teenager 'bows to inevitable'

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THE ANOREXIC teenager who lost her court battle to refuse medical treatment for her life- threatening illness yesterday 'bowed to the inevitable' and entered a special unit for eating disorders.

The girl's solicitor, Major Somerton, said that she had embarked on a three-month programme. The judges involved in the case were told there were no plans to 'force feed' the girl, identified only as J, unless it became necessary to save her life.

She was still not eating and her weight had gone down slightly overnight, but she was walking about and was talkative.

The 16-year-old girl, who at 5ft 7in (1.7m) weighs only 5st 7lb (35kg), was told on Tuesday night that the Court of Appeal had ruled that her wishes were of 'no weight' when it came to the court deciding which form of treatment she should have.

The girl had challenged an earlier High Court ruling that allowed the local authority responsible for her to move her from a residential psychiatric unit to a centre which specialises in anorexia.

The Court of Appeal delivered its decision before hearing all the arguments concerning the wider implications of the case because of a drastic deterioration in her condition.

Lord Donaldson, Master of the Rolls, stressed yesterday that the court had made no final ruling in the case.

Yesterday he and Lord Justices Balcombe and Nolan were addressed on its wider issues by Allan Levy QC, for the girl, John Samuels QC, for the local authority, and James Munby QC, instructed as an impartial expert by the Official Solicitor.

Afterwards there was no indication as to when the full judgment would be published. But its findings may have a profound effect on the right of 16 and 17-year-olds under the 1969 Family Law Reform Act to determine their medical treatment.

An application by Mr Levy for leave to appeal to the House of Lords against yesterday's ruling was adjourned until after full judgment has been given.

During the hearing Mr Levy was asked by Lord Donaldson if his submission allowed a 16 or 17- year-old who was a Jehovah's Witness to refuse a blood transfusion even if she would die? He said it did.

Mr Samuels asked the judges yesterday to declare that the Act conferred no rights, per se, on adolescents and was 'not an adolescents' charter'. He said that in appropriate circumstances the protective system of the courts would always be available to 'enable the wayward teenager to cope with and overcome a temporary medical crisis'.

The court had heard on Tuesday that J's most recent period of starvation had reduced her weight to 5st 7lb. She had last eaten nine days before and was existing on 12 cups of tea a day. Mr Munby said her long-term health and even her life would soon be in danger.

J began losing weight in 1990 after the death of a much-loved grandfather. Both her parents died before she was 10 and she had unfortunate experiences in foster care.

The court has issued a strict injunction banning publication of any information which could lead to J being identified.