Eating disorders: Telford mother's fight for an inquest into her 16-year-old daughter's death
A Telford mother is calling for a “full and fierce” public inquest into her 16-year-old daughter’s death from an eating disorder.
Libby Rose died on August 26, 2017, from hypokalaemia, or low potassium levels that led to a cardiac arrest.
Because the causes were deemed to be natural, no inquest was held.
But Libby had anorexia and bulimia in the two years beforehand, and her mum Rosemary Westwood-Rose from Admaston in Telford wants a court to consider whether anything could have been done to prevent her death, and whether care for people with eating disorders needs to improve.
Rosemary, along with Libby’s dad Ricky who lives in Brussels, and brother Alex have been left heartbroken
“We are all angry and frustrated. She should not have died,” said Rosemary, speaking exclusively to the Shropshire Star.
“In the space of just a couple of years, Libby transformed from a bright ambitious young girl into a victim of anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia – an obsession with eating healthy food. We are determined to find out how this happened.”
Rosemary, a nurse, says Libby’s decline into her eating disorders was slow and “invisible”.
“As parents we kept a close eye on her weight loss, we never once considered this diet could be the start of the terrible journey we’d unwittingly embarked on,” said Rosemary.
“Usually Libby made wise choices, sometimes with just a little guidance from us where needed, and we felt blessed to watch her growing into a successful young woman.
“We thought we’d notice if things were wrong but we didn’t see the first signs of her decline, how could we? We knew nothing of eating disorders and there was nothing obvious to us, when we did finally realise Libby had a serious problem we didn’t know who to turn to or what to do, not because we didn’t look, rather support was not available to Libby or to us.”
Libby’s GP, who Rosemary praised, referred her to NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). But Rosemary says the specialist skills to deal with eating disorders were not there and that Libby did not engage with them. It was only after paying for a psychologist that she received help.
“Bulimia finally caused Libby’s potassium to reach such a low level our GP was finally able to admit her to hospital. Her BMI was still not low enough to meet guidelines for eating disorder interventions,” said Rosemary.
Libby was admitted to hospital onto an adult ward and after being assessed by CAMHS was sectioned to Newbridge House, an eating disorder clinic in Sutton Coldfield.
She was discharged after three months, despite Rosemary pleading that Libby had not fully recovered.
Libby died at home five weeks later.
- The sooner someone gets treatment for an eating disorder, the better their chances of recovery. Anyone worried about their own or someone else’s health can contact eating disorder charity Beat’s Helpline, 365 days a year, via phone on, email, anonymous one-to-one webchat or social media messaging here. Or call: Adult Helpline - 0808 801 0677; Studentline - 0808 801 0811; Youthline - 0808 801 0711.
Since then the General Medical Council has launched an investigation into fitness to practise against two doctors that were involved in Libby’s care.
“Libby was was clever, powerful, argumentative, loving, supportive, and caring. Libby had an empathy for others that she did not receive when she needed it most,” said Rosemary.
“We believe, along with our solicitor and barrister, that opening an inquest to investigate multi-agency failures is in the public interest, however we need to get over the first hurdle which is to convince the coroner to open an inquest into Libby’s death.”
The coroner John Ellery said he is not able to comment on individual cases.
The family has launched a CrowdJustice campaign where they hope to raise £7,000 to support their legal efforts.
- If you would like to donate to Rosemary's CrowdJustice fund to help raise money towards her legal fees then click here or use the hashtag #inquest4libby on social media for more information.
Extracts from Libby's diary
Libby kept a diary found by her family after she had died. The family have allowed the Shropshire Star to print some of the extracts.
- Read more about Libby's tragic battle with bulimia here
- Libby Rose: MP Mark Pritchard backs Telford mum's call for an inquest into 16-year-old's death
- Eating disorders: 'It was horrendous and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone' - Shrewsbury mum
- Eating disorders: Number of people seeking treatment at Telford centre on the rise
- 'There are pro-eating disorder groups, and it’s terrifying' - Shropshire clinical psychologist