An anorexic teenager from Chorleywood, who had tried to take her life before, was able to hang herself after convincing doctors to reduce the amount of time she needed supervision, an inquest has heard.
Michaela Christoforou, 17, was admitted to the eating disorder centre Rhodes Farm, in Edgware, before her death in April last year. She was moved after she persuaded consultants and nurses the risk of her harming herself was low enough that she did not need supervision at night.
Dr Linda Zirinsky, a specialist in eating disorders at the centre, told North London Coroner’s Court that in the weeks before her death Michaela had shown doctors she was feeling "safer" and "brighter" and had successfully left the unit on short visits.
She said: "We were confident Michaela did want help to get better. She was taking on more challenges such as eating off the unit."
She told the court how Michaela had been scheduled to go to a friend’s birthday party, which would mean staying overnight at her father’s afterwards.
Michaela was being supervised from 6.30pm until 8.15am at the time, but staff decided on the Saturday before her death she would have to spend a night without observation in readiness for leaving the unit.
Dr Zirinsky said: "Michaela was really keen on going to the birthday party. We felt this was the next step and a good thing. We encourage young people to have friends outside the unit to encourage a normal life and give them something nice to aim for. We felt comfortable she could do it."
The court heard Michaela had attempted to commit suicide twice in January 2013 by overdosing on paracetamol and trying to hang herself after her cousin made a comment over Sunday lunch about her gaining weight.
Michaela’s family took her to Watford General Hospital after her sister found her attempting to hang herself in the bathroom. The teenager was sent to Forest House Adolescent Inpatient Unit, before being sent to Rhodes Farm.
Dr Hifzi Huzair saw Michaela while she was being treated by Hertfordshire’s child and adolescent mental health services.
When he first met her in June 2012 she had lost 3.5kg in two weeks, had a BMI of 13.5 and was restricting her diet to 200 calories a day.
By January, however, her weight was 85 per cent of what it should be and she was sticking to the meal plan set out in her community order.
Dr Zirinsky said: "Michaela had no insight into her condition. She did not believe she had an eating disorder so there was no way of working with her to treat the thoughts and symptoms."
A verdict of suicide was recorded.
After her death Michaela’s family set up a Just Giving page to raise funds for the eating disorder charity Beat. To make a donation visit www.justgiving. com/Michaela-Christoforou.