February 10, 2006

Bulimic thief jailed after appeal

Bulimic thief jailed after appeal
Jade Bilowol

A BULIMIA sufferer who stole money to buy food has been jailed for nine months after an appeal court overturned her original non-custodial sentence.
Jennifer Aileen La Rosa, 23, last October pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to stealing $51,214 while working as a till operator at a plant nursery at Chandler in the city's southeast.
La Rosa was sentenced to three years' jail, wholly suspended for three years, for stealing the cash between November 2003 and July 2004.
But the Queensland Court of Appeal jailed La Rosa for nine months on Friday after state Attorney-General Linda Lavarch successfully appealed her sentence on the grounds it was "manifestly inadequate".
Prosecutor Ross Martin last week told the court La Rosa's disorder was "not particularly extraordinary" and that she should not escape jail because she was bulimic.
However, La Rosa's lawyer Tony Kimmins said: "It was a case of distorted perception rather than a greedy lifestyle ."
The appeal court judges agreed that bulimia was not "necessarily a reason to impose a lenient sentence".

February 8, 2006

Genetic Link to Anorexia?

Genetic Link To Anorexia?
LAKE VIEW, Iowa, Feb. 3, 2006

(CBS) There is a startling new theory about what causes some cases of anorexia: It's not the media or other cultural influences, but rather a genetic predisposition.

As The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy reports for a two-part series, there has to be a trigger to set the disease into motion. For some, it can be a simple case of a childhood disease such as strep throat. Just last week, 7-year-old Kennedy Pieken was in the hospital. "She got the flu over the weekend and ended up losing five pounds and getting very dehydrated. She wouldn't eat or drink anything," explains her mother, Jodi Pieken. Kennedy had lost five pounds, something she couldn't afford, because this first grader from Lake View, Iowa, has been battling anorexia for three years. "The way she was going, I was afraid she was gonna die. I mean, her hair was falling out. She looked awful," says Jodi.

Kennedy's parents didn't know what to do when their preschooler suddenly stopped eating. "I would wake up in the morning hoping she was still gonna be alive and then thinking, 'OK, now I gotta start the day over again. Trying to get her to eat.' It was awful," Jodi explains. And although Kennedy was only 4, she knew exactly what she was doing. "I nibbled on it a little bit. and then I pretended to eat it. So then I pretended to swallow it, too," says Kennedy. She admits she would put the food in her cheeks and then spit it out later. For five months, Kennedy lived on ice cream, chocolate milk and pudding. Even getting those foods down was a struggle. "Even when she would eat the pudding it would just be like sticking the spoon into the pudding, getting a dab of it, and then putting it in her mouth that way. You know, it would take her almost two hours to eat a little cup of pudding," Kennedy's father, Roger Pieken, remembers.

"There was one point, Roger was holding her with her mouth open. And I was trying to shove a tiny bite of peach into her mouth. She was screaming. Bawling," says Jodi. Asked what caused her to stop eating, Kennedy says, "I don't know. Because my brain was telling me not to eat." Jodi realized this wasn't just a case of picky eating and began to suspect anorexia; she knew the signs, because she has fought the disease herself for years "This summer, actually, I was in Omaha, at a clinic for three weeks with it. Finally, my husband and a friend of mine said, 'You need help. You have to do something.' Cause I got under 100 (pounds)," explains Jodi.

"We're finding more and more that there is a biological predisposition to having an eating disorder, especially anorexia nervosa," explains Dr. Mae Sokol, who runs a unit at Children's Hospital in Omaha, Neb., that specializes in pediatric eating disorders. "You could be born with that biological predisposition, but it doesn't mean that you're going to develop this disorder," Dr. Sokol says.

In other words, a predisposition needs a trigger to set off the behavior. In Kennedy Pieken's case, it was strep throat. Kennedy didn't stop eating because her throat hurt, but because the strep caused changes in her brain, something Dr. Sokol says she has seen before. "A small group of people who get strep throat go on to develop autoimmune diseases — in other words, problems where their body attacks itself," she explains. If your child gets strep throat, Dr. Sokol says, you shouldn't panic. "It is very normal to get strep throat. There's just a small group of children who get a problem with eating after they've developed strep, after the strep is over with." Months after the strep was gone, Kennedy was still losing weight. The Piekens finally took her to the eating disorders program in Omaha. "Her doctor sat me down. And she's like, 'I don't sugarcoat things.' Jodi said, 'You know, this is a life or death situation. And your daughter is in bad shape.'"

Kennedy spent two weeks at the clinic learning about nutrition and diet. Doctors had to use creative therapies to reach somebody her age, and when Murphy first met her a couple of months ago, Kennedy had been eating normally again. But less than two weeks after The Early Show team left, Kennedy got another case of strep, triggering her most recent relapse. The stress brought back her mother's symptoms, too. "The kids do, they notice," says Jodi. "They'll say 'Mom's not eating very good,' and that does hurt me. But it makes me more than upset and then I can't eat. I mean, I just physically cannot eat." Jodi acknowledges that it makes "no sense" that she gets upset with Kennedy for doing the same thing. Kennedy picked at her food for weeks. That's why a bout with the flu sent her back to the hospital and her parents back to the drawing board. "It's been a very frustrating day. The doctor wants, the local doctor wants to send her back to Omaha. But I just don't know if that's the right thing to do," wonders Kennedy's father, Roger.

Kennedy, who turns 8 next week, has since returned from the hospital and is on a very strict eating regimen for the next two weeks. If she doesn't improve dramatically, her parents will have to take her back to the eating disorders unit in Omaha.

Part one of this The Early Show series covered the possibility that some people are born with a genetic predisposition to such disorders. Click here to watch part one. For information from the Omaha Children's Hospital, click here. The National Institute of Mental Health is sponsoring a multicenter, international study seeking to determine whether a gene or genes might predispose individuals to develop anorexia nervosa. The reseachers need families with at least two relatives (sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents) who have or had anorexia nervosa, and who would be willing to participate. The study involves the completion of interviews and questionnaires, and a blood draw. Participants don't need to travel and will be paid upon completion of the study. For more information, call 1-888-895-3886, or e-mail EDResearch@upmc.edu, or visit angenetics.org.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is the largest not-for-profit organization in the country dedicated to supporting research for the prevention, treatment and cure of eating disorders; supporting state legislative and advocacy efforts for access to treatment; expanding public education and awareness of eating disorders; promoting access and providing referrals to quality treatment for those affected; and providing support for their loved ones. Since the inception of its Helpline in 1999, NEDA has referred more than 50,000 people to treatment and tallies more than 40 million hits annually on its Web site.

February 1, 2006

State objects to bulimia defence

State objects to bulimia defence

Mark Oberhardt

A WOMAN who stole $51,000 from her employer should not have escaped jail simply because she had the eating disorder bulimia, a court was told yesterday.

In the Court of Appeal in Brisbane, prosecutor Ross Martin, SC, was making submissions on behalf of Queensland's Attorney-General, Linda Lavarch, who wanted to overturn a judge's decision to wholly suspend a three-year jail term imposed on Jennifer Aileen La Rosa.

The court heard it was the first time in Australia the effects of the eating disorder bulimia had been discussed by an appellate court.
In the District Court late last year, La Rosa, 23, pleaded guilty to stealing as a servant while working as a till operator at Hawkins Home and Garden Centre, Chandler, between November 2003 and July 2004.
La Rosa stole small amounts of cash which she used to buy food to satisfy her constant compulsion to eat, which was followed by purging. In all, she took $51,214.10 during the eight-month period.
Judge Helen O'Sullivan wholly suspended the three-year jail sentence so that La Rosa could continue to receive treatment and make restitution. However, Mrs Lavarch appealed on the grounds the sentence was manifestly inadequate.
In the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Martin said courts should not be hospitals where the doctors focused on the patients alone. He said in criminal cases there were more people to be considered than just an offender who was the subject of medical or psychiatric reports.
Mr Martin said in cases of fraud against employers it was possible for a defendant to stay out of jail if the mitigating features were exceptional.
"A defendant has to have a very good story to tell and, in this case, she does not have a good enough one," Mr Martin said.
However, barrister Tony Kimmins, for La Rosa, said the sole reason for the offences was the fact his client suffered from bulimia. He said that, when combined with other mitigating factors, it was clear La Rosa's sentence was not manifestly inadequate.
"The only motivation for the offences were (sic) the eating disorder," Mr Kimmins said.
"She also has on her side no previous convictions, her youth, genuine remorse and an early guilty plea."
He said that, if the Court of Appeal believed the sentence was inadequate, it could increase it through probation, an intensive correction order or community service. All of those would allow La Rosa to remain in the community.
Mr Kimmins said there had been no other cases of bulimia being discussed in appellate courts.
Justice Pat Keane questioned how bulimia could be linked to frauds: "We do not have a rash of bulimic embezzlers."
Mr Kimmins replied bulimia was a recognised psychiatric illness.
The Court of Appeal reserved its judgment.