A 15-year-old girl in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Lujhou (蘆洲) died on Thursday from multiple organ failure that doctors suspected were due to complications from a cold and an immune system weakened by anorexia.
Family members said the girl, surnamed Wang (王), developed moderate depression in her second year of junior-high school and that more than a year-and-a-half ago, she developed what was later diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive anorexia.
Wang, who was a little over 150cm tall, went down in weight to 26kg from 45kg in just one year. She regained some weight over the summer when she was hospitalized, but since the start of the semester in September, her weight dropped steadily, despite her mother taking her to and from school and packing her lunches, Wang’s mother said.
Wang caught a cold on Tuesday. She saw a doctor, but she was allergic to the medications the doctor gave her, and her condition did not improve, her mother said. On Thursday Wang woke up at 3am and said she felt nauseated.
Her father gave her some water and stayed in her room until she went back to sleep, Wang’s mother said, but when she went to wake Wang up at 6am, she was shocked to find her stiff and cold on her bed.
Law enforcement officials said the cause of death was most likely due to complications from the cold and a lack of antibodies to fight them due to malnourishment.
Wang’s teachers said that despite her condition, Wang was achieving top grades and had told them that she was aiming to attend National Taiwan University.
Wang’s mother said earlier this week she was considering applying for a leave of absence from school for Wang.
Commenting on the case, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital doctor Chang Chia-ming (張家銘) said that many young girls are constantly on diets and this often leads to eating disorders, either eating excessively to deal with emotional issues, or anorexia combined with other emotional issues, most commonly depression.
Anorexic sufferers tire easily, and their immune systems and metabolism are compromised by malnutrition, Chang said, adding that any sort of infection can easily put anorexic patients in mortal danger.
Additional reporting by Kuo Yen-hui and Wei Yi-chia