Parent"s agony as hospital lets anorexic teenager go home to die after she was given full control of her own treatment

Parent's agony as hospital lets anorexic teenager go home to die after she was given full control of her own treatment
Laura Willmott, 18, had endured a five-year battle with the disease
Collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest after starving herself to barely 5st Her parents blame decision to let her take charge of own treatment at 18
'Was in no fit state to make decisions herself about treatment,' said mother'Her level of deceit was breathtaking' when it came to not taking in food

By
Eleanor Harding

PUBLISHED:

16:51 GMT, 21 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 22 February 2013


Laura Willmott, 18, died from anorexia after a long battle with the eating disorder

Laura Willmott, 18, died from anorexia after a long battle with the eating disorder

The parents of a teenage anorexia sufferer who was allowed to refuse treatment because she was legally an adult have spoken out against a system that ‘doomed ‘ their daughter.

Laura Willmott, 18, collapsed and died after starving herself to barely five stone in weight.

The former private schoolgirl had battled the disease for five years.

She had been admitted to hospital when her weight had dropped so low that she was unable to walk.

However, she was discharged after 11 days, when doctors deemed that she was ‘physically fit’ to return home, Avon Coroner’s Court heard.

The parents were not involved in the decision because she was over 18.

The teenager, who planned to become a nurse, continued to starve herself and refused to see her GP, leading to her death from a heart attack just weeks later.

The family had been left ‘in the dark’ about any advice or treatment that she was being given.

Speaking after yesterday’s hearing, mother Vickie Townsend said her daughter had been failed by local services and called for a change in policy.

She said: ‘Laura wanted to be a nurse and I am sure she would say if anything positive could come out of her experience it would be that where there might be deficits or policy failings in the care system for anorexia they should be attended to so that future sufferers might do better.’

Laura collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest after starving herself to barely five stone

Laura collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest after starving herself to barely five stone

The coroner also called for a change in policy in treatment of eating disorders.

The hearing was told that Miss
Willmott, of Redland, Bristol, was given autonomy on her treatment
around the time of her 18th birthday in February 2011 – leaving her
parents ‘in the dark’.

The former Colston Girl’s School
pupil was ‘doomed’ from that point onwards according to her mother, as
she became ‘impossible to persuade’ to take treatment.

On October 28, 2011, Mrs Townsend, an
experienced hospital nurse, was so concerned about her daughter’s
deteriorating health that she took her to Frenchay Hospital A&E
department.

Laura was admitted to Frenchay Hospital, Bristol (pictured), in October 2011, after her weight dropped so low that she was unable to walk

Laura was admitted to Frenchay Hospital, Bristol (pictured), in October 2011, after her weight dropped so low that she was unable to walk

She was discharged on November 8 but
continued to avoid eating and pretended she had drunk high-protein
drinks she had been given.

Her mother said: ‘She became frailer
and frailer. She was not strong enough to walk. To get around at all
inside the house she had to crawl.’

Two weeks later, she collapsed at home and was taken to hospital – but it was too late to save her.
She suffered cardiac arrest on December 12 and died of brain damage a week later.

Mrs Townsend said: ‘It is impossible
to describe the impact of Laura’s death on me and my family or explain
our experience of Laura’s dreadful journey as a young teenager with
anorexia to the point of her demise at 18.

When re-admitted to the hospital, she tricked nurses by soaking her nutrition drinks into tissue and later suffered a cardiac arrest and brain injury

When re-admitted to the hospital, she tricked nurses by soaking her nutrition drinks into tissue and later suffered a cardiac arrest and brain injury

‘She was a wonderful daughter and a very talented and supremely caring human being.’

Dr Hugh Herzig, a consultant
psychiatrist who worked with Miss Willmott in hospital, said he was
reluctant to take all decision making powers away from her.

He said: ‘I didn’t know how sending
her home would go but I felt it was an experiment, to use that word,
that was quite an important step to take.

‘The decision to take all the trust
away from the patient is a very grave one. Laura’s thinking and her
emotions were coloured by her long-standing eating disorder but she
could consider and believed the evidence that was in front of her.’

Terence Moore, Assistant Deputy
Coroner for Avon, recorded a narrative verdict, meaning that the
circumstances surrounding a death are recorded, without attributing the
cause to any named individual. Mr Moore also said he would write to the
authorities to highlight his concerns over the treatment of anorexia
patients.

He said he would recommend hospitals
consider allowing patients with an eating disorder to remain in hospital
longer if it was felt it would aid their recovery.