This anorexia death in 2012 has come to light because of a report blaming the Health Service for failing her care. Is the Health Service to blame? Is the University to blame? What role do parents have when a child is so ill that they cannot take care of themselves?
Averil was put under the care of a Junior Psychologist who probably did her best. Would it be harsh of me to say that there is a lot of truth and nonsense being written about this case.
When I have a patient with anorexia, the first thing I urge parents to do is to alert the University beforehand and make sure that a care plan is in place for if a child relapses. The University also has a duty of care to make sure that all their students are well enough to be there.If there is any doubt about this, the Uni should insist on time out until any young person is well enough to keep attending. So it seems the University has something to answer for.
Are parents accountable for allowing a sick young woman to continue studying? If their child was ill, surely it is the duty of parents to insist that their child only continue with their studies if they are deemed a healthy enough weight.
So who should have insisted that Averil come back home and STAY home for treatment? She was not in a position to make that judgement herself. Her illness would also have seriously affected the well being of her friends.
Is the NHS to be blamed for not giving the right treatment? Anorexia is still very hard to treat. Anorexia is a master hypnotist, controlling someone’s life. It usually relapses unless someone is truly determined to live differently and even then it puts up a fight. Someone suggested that the right treatment would have made it easy for her to recover. They are wrong, people die even when they get the right help.
The parents are in despair wanting answers, everyone wants to attack the health service. We are lucky to have the NHS at all, in other countries people die of all sorts of things because they cannot afford help. If Averil’s parents had sought help from other agencies as well, like ours, things might have gone better. I cannot accept that Averil was fine when she was young, anorexia always shows up well before people start losing weight.
I am sorry for her parent’s loss. But. We have to stop blaming and attacking, this is common when someone gets an eating disorder because getting help is slow and difficult. Eating disorders are desperate problems and can persist for years, competing with other terrible illnesses like cancer and MS for funding and ongoing care. There will never be “answers” because despite everything we know about anorexia there are some people who won’t recover and who require hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of care during their lifetime.