Coroner’s Ruling May Be First to Link Suicide with Anorexia
The tragic case of Alana Goldsmith may actually help raise awareness to the lethality of the disease.
A coroner in New South Wales, Australia, declared the cause of death for a 23-year-old woman as suicide while suffering from anorexia nervosa, which has been declared by authorities as the first time the disease has been officially mentioned in regard to a death certificate for suicide.
In 2011, Sydney resident Alana Goldsmith was receiving treatment for the eating disorder when she disappeared from the hospital; her body was found a few hours later on July 22 of that year. Goldsmith’s family had hoped that the coroner’s report would help to raise awareness of the lethal aspects of the disease, which has death rates estimated at 17%—the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Coroner Mark Douglass presented his conclusion at the inquest into Goldsmith’s death at the New South Wales coroner’s court in Sydney. The reasons for his findings have not been released, but are expected in the coming weeks.
Christine Morgan, chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, an eating disorder awareness group, underscored the significance of the situation by stating, “Recognizing suicide risk is heightened for someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, this finding can jolt a seismic shift in the way governments resource communities to address eating disorders.” Data collected in 2012 shows more than 900,000 Australians suffer from an eating disorder, while an estimated eight million Americans contend with anorexia or bulimia.
In both countries, access to treatment is limited—only 20% of American women who receive treatment for eating disorders get the full three to six months of inpatient care doctors and health specialists say is required to stay in recovery from the disease. Many are sent home weeks earlier, or cannot afford the cost, which is estimated at $30,000 a month for inpatient treatment; New South Wales’ Fed Up campaign reports that only two public adult inpatient eating disorder beds are available in the state, while public outpatient treatment is relegated to four hours a week.