40 Stone Man With Prader-Willi Dies

A morbidly obese young man has died after losing his fight against a rare genetic disorder that compelled him to eat continuously. Chris Leppard, 25, died at 10.45am at the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, East Sussex.

He was admitted to hospital last month suffering from a chest infection and other health complaints resulting from the obesity caused by Prader-Willi Syndrome.

His uncle Steve Glover, 47, said: “We’re all devastated. He went downhill on Saturday, improved on Sunday but went downhill again and died. It is a shock. We all thought he would stay in hospital for a while, lose weight and come home.”

Mr Leppard, who was diagnosed with Prader-Willi in his early teens, had seen his weight rise to around 40st, having spent most of the past six months confined to his home in Hastings. Doctors gave Chris a fortnight to live in April after his weight soared to around 40st.

At the time, he said: “What the doctors said has hit me hard. I can’t live like this anymore but I don’t want to die. I’m scared about leaving my mum, my friends and my family but I’m just too fat to help myself now. I can’t get up to exercise. It hurts my legs too much to support my weight.”

A Conquest Hospital spokesman said: “We would like to send our deepest sympathies to his family at this sad time.”

Prader-Willi Syndrome was first described in 1956 by three Swiss doctors, and stems from a flaw in the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which determines hunger. There are believed to be around 2,000 cases of the incurable condition in the UK, with around one in 22,000 babies born with it, according to research.

Two years ago East Sussex social services sectioned Chris under the Mental Health Act. He spent seven days at the Eastbourne Clinic in Eastbourne after social services said they had acted for his own safety.

When doctors discharged him a week later after concluding he was free of any mental condition, he tried to cut back on his high-calorie intake but fell back into old habits.

In June 2005, Abby Redpath, 29, from Wooler in Northumberland, died after being diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome at the age of 16.

The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association has said the condition is caused by a genetic disorder affecting the brain that means sufferers cannot control their hunger. They also suffer from an abnormal body composition, which means they need fewer calories than the average person.