The hunger

Dying to eat - full story

11 November, 2012

Reporter/Producer: Tim Noonan

It‘s one of the most bizarre medical syndromes known to science.

Around two dozen Australian babies are born with it every single year, while an estimated 400,000 people live with it around the world.

There is no cure and there are no answers - sufferers simply have a constant, uncontrollable urge to eat. They’re always hungry and never feel full, their insatiable appetites forcing them to eat food whenever and wherever they can.

It’s called Prader-Willi syndrome, and it’s a random brain abnormality which causes many victims to literally eat themselves to death. They will eat anything they can - from the floor, from bins, anywhere. In this remarkable investigation, Tim Noonan meets the mother of James, a young Aussie who pleaded to be allowed to escape his misery by committing death by food.

There is next to no help available in Australia to help James or other Prader-Willi patients, with facilities in NSW and South Australia only, but in the UK a remarkable group of home has been set up to treat those with the syndrome.

Sunday Night meets several patients including Laetitia, who weighed in at 167kgs and needed firemen to help her out of her house and take her to hospital where she nearly died. Since that dramatic day, she’s lost around 100kgs.

The treatments she and the other patients receive, and the amazing results they achieve, are a blueprint for what’s needed here in Australia to treat those afflicted with this terrible condition.


The Prader Willi Syndrome Association of Victoria is a support group that provides awareness, education and support to enhance the quality of life of people living with PWS and their families in the southern region of Australia.

Please donate to help the association achieve its goal of establishing a home for persons living with PWS. Or join their annual fundraising event, the 1,000 Steps for PWS Challenge 2012, on Sunday November 25.

You can also LIKE their Facebook page to keep up to date on events and information on Prader-Willi Syndrome.