Kate Chilver, a young British woman who died after battling a 16-year eating disorder, had one of “the worst” cases of anorexia doctors had ever seen, an inquest heard today.
Kate Chilver, 31, weighed 30 kg (66 lb) and was so thin that parts of her stomach and bowel had “died” through lack of blood supply.
The woman developed symptoms of the disease aged 12 and spent the rest of her life in specialist medical units until eventually dying from anorexia nervosa.
Doctors revealed that for almost 20 years Kate Chilver from Ealing, west London, was dangerously underweight.
A healthy BMI (body mass index) is between 20 and 25 while a reading of less than 15 signals severe anorexia, but hers remained less than 12 and at one stage at fell to just nine.
Dr Frances Connan, a consultant psychologist who treated her at Vincent Square Clinic in south west London, said: “I’d known Kate since her referral to our service in 2004.
“She had onset anorexia from the age of about 12, her first admission just before she was 15.
“She had the most severe illness of patient I have ever come across.
“At times her BMI went down as low as 9. It’s extremely rare to see a BMI of less than 10.”
Doctors fed her through a tube in a bid to boost her health but all attempts failed.
Over the years Kate Chilver was released twice, both for six month periods, but on both occasions her weight quickly returned to life-threatening levels and she was readmitted to eating disorder units and hospitals.
During the 16-year battle it was reported that Kate Chilver didn’t respond to medication, was unable to “engage” in psychotherapy and would “over exercise”.
The autopsy revealed Kate Chilver’s heart was less than half the size it should have been, and she weighed less than 30kg (66 lb).
Recording a death of natural causes due to anorexia nervosa, Coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox said: “Dr. Connan described her as the most unwell patient she had ever treated.
“A very experienced pathologist, Dr Michael Osborn, said that at the time he performed his examination Kate was the thinnest person he ever had to investigate.”
Kate Chilver tried to hide the extent of her eating disorder while her mother Lynne tried to make life as normal as possible, regularly taking her out on day trips.
In the days leading up to her death, Kate Chilver started experiencing abdominal discomfort, and crippled by pain was transferred to Chelsea and Westminster hospital on July 10 this year.
At hospital medics discovered tissue in her bowel and stomach had died because of poor circulation.
This was because her arteries had closed from pressure inside the body, as there was no intra-abdominal fat to “cushion” them.
As Kate Chilver’s body was “so starved”, surgery wasn’t an option and she died in an intensive care unit on 12 July this year.
Dr. Fiona Wilcox added: “What happened to Kate was extremely rare complications and unpredictable.
“Blood vessels are normally cushioned by fat but Kate had a complete absence of intra-abdominal fat to provide this.
“It’s quite clear from the evidence of all the doctors and her mother that Kate suffered an extremely severe illness which eventually took her life.”
Anorexia is the leading cause of mental health-related deaths and Kate Chilver was sectioned under the mental health act, and remained so until the time of her death.
One in every 200 women and one in every 2,000 men is affected and around 5% of sufferers will die from complications caused by malnutrition.