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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Family's fears for anorexic girl
Lauren Martin
A healthy Lauren Martin before she fell victim to anorexia
The family of a 17-year-old girl with anorexia fear she will die without psychiatric help.

Lauren Martin was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald last Thursday and weighs just four stone.

She will not eat and at 17 is medically classed as an adult so doctors cannot intervene to force her to. They will not do so unless she goes into a coma.

Lauren's family are also concerned that she did not see a psychiatrist until Tuesday afternoon.

Her mother, Dale Martin, said: "They promised me that if I left her there on Friday night, they would have somebody in to see her on Saturday - first thing on Saturday morning they'd have a specialist in to assess her so they could work with her.

"We waited all day Saturday and nobody came in, all day Sunday only to be told 'no they don't work at weekends'.

"So then they promised me they would definitely have somebody in on Monday and I sat all day yesterday waiting on them coming in and nobody (came)."

Lauren's sister Janice Farr said she could not believe the doctors would not intervene to force her to eat.

"How they can say that she can make her own mind up? I can't believe that because she has a mental illness," she said.

Ulster Hospital
Lauren is being treated in the Ulster Hospital

"So when somebody has a mental illness surely they can't decide for themselves.

"It should be up to the doctors to say 'right she can't decide we have to intervene' but they won't do that until she gets so bad that she's at death's door."

In a statement the hospital said "it recognises the difficulties experienced by families in such distressful circumstances."

They added that "all care will be in accordance with the best clinical and professional advice".

It is difficult for people with eating disorders to get professional help in Northern Ireland.

Waiting lists are long and specialist hospital treatment is only available in England.

The Department of Health said it is working to have a local facility in the future.

The Martin family said speaking publicly about Lauren was a last resort.

They said they felt they had been left with no other choice in their fight to save her life.

BBC Newsline's Tara Mills speaks to Lauren's family

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