Mum claims doctor ‘told her to starve son’ to solve his extreme selective eating

A mum claims a doctor 'told her to starve her son' so he could get treatment for his extreme selective eating.

Katy Spence visited a GP last week to try and get help for her son Xander Spence who she believes suffers from avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

Sufferers of ARFID can be very sensitive to the taste, texture, smell, appearance and even temperature of certain foods which can lead to avoidance or intake restriction.

Xander, eight, has a list just 11 'safe foods' he will eat and each of these has to be a specific brand and prepared in a specific way otherwise he cannot eat it.

Mum-of-two Katy, who works for the NHS in administration, says that Xander first struggled with his eating after catching food poisoning from a dodgy chip shop sausage at the age of one.

But from three onwards, Xander started to refuse more and more foods.

Desperate for a confirmed diagnosis and help for her son, Katy booked an appointment at Brannel Surgery in Saint Austell, Cornwall, but claims she was 'fobbed off' as Xander is a healthy weight.

Katy says the GP advised her to starve Xander in the hopes he would either get so hungry he'd eat anything or lose enough weight to qualify for a referral to the eating disorder team.

Katy is refusing to 'keep quiet and ignore' what she feels is a shocking lack of knowledge about eating disorders amongst GPs.

Katy, of Saint Austell, Cornwall, said: "I went to the doctor for a referral to the eating disorders team for Xander and he told me, in a roundabout way, that I'm not strong enough as a mother to deal with these issues.

"He was basically telling me I needed to man up and just give Xander whatever the family is eating.

"I explained that if I give Xander my food, he will not eat and the doctor said if Xander lost weight then they would be able to do further investigations.

"The doctor was basically saying that if I starve Xander and he falls underweight then he would be accepted on the eating disorders team.

"I'm not prepared to do that. I'm not prepared to sit and watch my child starve himself because that's the only way the doctors will help him.

"I wonder how long it would take for me to get reported to child services if I followed that advice and Xander went into school and told people 'mummy won't give me any food I can eat'.

"It made me so angry and then I got really upset which made Xander upset.

"The doctor told me he's seen children like Xander time and time again and starving them works."

Katy added: "It's taken me googling the condition and joining Facebook groups to realise Xander has all the symptoms.

"Surely there must be some sort of mental health provision to help Xander before he becomes like that boy in the news who went blind because he only ate chips?

"It's so scary seeing things like that and knowing the physical impact ARFID can have.

"I'm not usually the person to be shouting out loud about this sort of thing but enough is enough.

"I can't even imagine Xander growing up with health problems because I didn't shout enough. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't push the doctors more."

Katy said: "When Xander was three, he really restricted the amount he was eating so we mentioned it to the doctor and they told us 'he will eat when he's hungry'.

"We tried to just sit it out and give him what the family were eating. He starved himself for almost three days. It was heartbreaking. I couldn't force feed him.

"In the end, I had to hold my hands up and say I wasn't going to push him any further. Nobody should have to watch their child starve themselves.

The foods Xander will eat include Aldi penne pasta with mature cheddar cheese but only if the cheese isn't melted, McDonald's chicken nuggets, cream crackers and Aldi sausage rolls.

When Katy and Malcolm try to get Xander to eat different foods he will sometimes vomit or reduce his list of 'safe foods' even more.

The mum is planning to speak to Xander's school to see if she can get her son the help he needs through a different route.


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