A 12 year old girl is being force fed three times a day while doctors and judges wrestle with how to cope with her mystery illness.

The girl, who has not been identified, is being treated at a hospital near her home for an eating disorder, although medics have been unable to identify the cause of her illness.

Details of the case were published after Mr Justice Hayden analysed evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Tuesday.

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nother hearing at the court had ruled that the girl could be force fed, amid concerns she could be close to death. The judge said there was no evidence to suggest that the problem was related to “body image” or social media pressure.

Doctors were trying to work out whether the cause was “organic”, psychological, or related to a genetic mutation.

The girl, who is four feet seven, now weighs just four and a half stones and will not eat, Mr Justice Hayden heard on Tuesday.

The judge said the youngster’s declining weight was “disturbing” and “frightening” and said time was not on anyone’s side. She was being restrained and force-fed through a tube three times a day, he was told. 

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He oversaw the hearing in private but ruled that the case could be reported after an application by a journalist, arguing publicity could benefit the girl if her case came to the attention of specialist who might help. Hospital bosses say they have been unable to find a specialist unit which can provide the treatment required by the youngster.

Mr Justice Hayden said he would review developments on Thursday.Mr Justice Hayden said the girl could not be identified, journalists could not reveal where in the UK she lived, or which hospital authority was responsible for her care, in case such detail created an information jigsaw which revealed her identity.

Barrister Andrew Bagchi QC represented the hospital authority and told the judge how the girl’s weight had dipped below the 30kg mark.

He said another judge had approved force-feeding at another, more recent High Court hearing.

Mr Justice Hayden said he wanted the girl to get support to help her cope with the trauma of being force-fed – and said he wanted to be sure there was no alternative to force-feeding.

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“We have a 12-year-old girl being force-fed three times a day,” said the judge.

“I personally cannot think of anything more horrific.”

The girl’s parents watched the hearing via a video link so they could stay with her at hospital. Mr Justice Hayden was told how the girl was held down by four members of staff when force-fed.

Her father had described the episodes as “barbaric”, he heard, while her mother could not bear to watch.

“She’s a bright kid,” her father told the judge. “She’s a beautiful kid who loves life so much, who wants to get better and get back to school and back to life.”

He added: “To see her as this husk is really horrid.”