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Back To Vidyya Media Images & Magazines Blamed For UK Girl's Death From Bulimia Nervosa

Easy Access To Laxatives And Diuretics Compounded Problem

A coroner has said magazines contributed to the death of a 17-year-old girl who had bulimia. He also attacked the wide availability of laxatives, which he said were also a factor in the death of Melissa Booth, from Walton in Liverpool.

An inquest on Wednesday heard that Melissa died from a heart attack, brought on by complications associated with bulimia nervosa. The coroner Andre Rebello said the teenager was probably "pushed" into her death by the magazines, and the fact it was easy to get hold of laxative tablets. He recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, contributed to by self neglect. He said: "The availability of diuretics and laxatives and teenage magazines pushed her further into having an eating disorder, even caused it.

"Melissa's father told me she read magazines aimed at teenage girls quite a lot. It would be unfair to name names, but it is true to say they all have a preoccupation with body image."

Gary Booth, Melissa's father, backed the coroner, and called for better controls on the selling of laxatives and diuretics, tablets which can treat water retention.

Miss Booth, who died in her sleep on January 14 this year, had had bulimia nervosa for a number of months, according to her father.

Miss Booth was treated in a specialist unit in Liverpool last December and had promised her parents that she had stopped taking laxatives and diuretics. At the inquest, held at Liverpool's Coroner's Court, consultant pathologist Dr Charles Burrows said the low levels of potassium found in Miss Booth's body could be related to the amount of diuretics and laxatives she took.

Large amounts of diuretic tablets, which she used to help her body get rid of fluids after a binge, were found in her bedroom. The coroner said he told Mr Booth it was "quite right and proper" for him to campaign to make people aware of the dangers of diuretics and laxatives, which are widely available in pharmacies.

Mr. Booth, a Labour Party organizer, said he may take the issue up with Peter Kilfoyle, who is his local MP.

Steve Bloomfield, spokesperson for the Eating Disorders Association, said the media did affect how young people see the world. He added: "In terms of the media we would always ask for a responsible approach to all aspects of the people they show, the lifestyles they represent. We would want them to represent a realistic cross-section of society. The pressures that young people find themselves under are often influenced by the media because they see people who have attractive lifestyles, who do have particular body shapes that tend to be thinner, and there is this risk that they do misinterpret that."

Mr. Bloomfield added that low self-esteem was at the heart of eating disorders, which could be made worse by images in the media. "People with low self-esteem can look in the magazines and can form a view of the world that is skewed by the images that they see."

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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