The Hartman Law Firm, LLC | October 22, 2023, at 07:23 a.m.
North Charleston, SC – If you are a YouTube watcher or you are on Twitch, you are probably familiar with the name Eugenia Cooney.
Eugenia Cooney is a YouTuber and social media personality known for her vlogs, makeup tutorials, and fashion hauls. Born on July 27, 1994, in Massachusetts, she gained significant attention on YouTube due to her thin appearance, which led to widespread concern about her health among viewers and other YouTubers. This concern has sparked numerous discussions and debates about body image, eating disorders, and the responsibilities of the social media platforms and in Eugenia’s case, her parents, specifically her mother.
Eugenia Cooney’s Start
Eugenia started her YouTube channel in 2011 which has grown to over 2 million followers. It seems that her followers are there for a variety of reasons. Some are genuinely concerned for her and express their concern to her in her live video and chat sessions. She often brushes off the comments with “I am fine” however, by looking at her appearance, her “fine” status could be questioned.
Eugenia Cooney’s 5150
If you have watched Eugenia throughout the years, you would see her with friends or talking about going out with friends. However, that has changed. In February 2019 Eugenia’s friends had asked her to go to an Escape Room with them. Instead of going to the Escape Room, they had set up and emergency psychiatric evaluation by, what is assumed to be, a Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) of Los Angeles County. This PET Team is operated by a psychiatric hospital in order to assess people who may be in emergent danger of hurting themselves or others. Although Eugenia’s alleged condition was not emergent, it is seemingly an ongoing and progressive problem to which an assessment was warranted.
As a result of that assessment, Eugenia has stated that she was “[had] restraints put around her arms and carried away on a stretcher”. Eugenia’s friends had started the process of what is called a 5150.
What is a 5150?
A “5150” refers to a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows a person with a mental illness to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization. A 5150 hold is initiated when there’s reason to believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others, or is gravely disabled due to their mental condition.
The term “5150” is often used colloquially to refer to someone being placed under a psychiatric hold or to describe someone’s mental state, especially in situations where they might be acting erratically or unpredictably. However, its official use is specific to the legal and medical processes in California related to involuntary psychiatric commitment.
Eugenia’s Social Life
Since that time, she does not seem to be socializing with friends as much and her main source of true human contact is her parents with whom she lives. She still frequently appears online though as it is likely that her is main source of income. As a result of watching Eugenia getting thinner and thinner, her audience has called in Los Angeles social services to do welfare checks. Eugenia does mention these meetings on her live chats and to date Los Angeles County has not initiated another 5150.
Eugenia and Shane Dawson
In 2019, Eugenia took a break from social media to focus on her health and later returned with a video in collaboration with Shane Dawson, a popular YouTuber, where she discussed her struggles and recovery journey. The video provided insight into her life and addressed some of the concerns that had been raised by the online community. It was clear that she was healthier at that time. Her face was a little more filled out and she looked healthy.
Throughout the years, Eugenia’s audience has watched her deteriorate. The question about where her parents has been raised several times during her live views and by commentary channels. Her father seems to be distanced from all things Eugenia. He has made a few rare appearances but by voice only. Her mother, on the other hand, seems to be more involved. Some claiming her mother is too involved but not to the point where her mother is calling for help for her daughter that is clearly in a state of needing help. Some claim that part of Eugenia’s popularity is that it is a spectacle. However, with that popularity comes views and therefore money. The connection here, allegedly, is that Eugenia’s mother, or parents for that matter, are choosing not to get the help she needs because they are financially benefiting from Eugenia’s popularity.
What is the Legal Responsibility of Eugenia’s Parents in Her Death?
There are a few potential liabilities that parents of adult children with anorexia may face:
- Financial liability – Parents may feel obligated to financially support their adult child’s living expenses, medical treatment, therapy, etc. However, legally they are not required to provide financial support once the child is over 18. In Eugenia’s case, it seems to be the other way around. Not quite what the DSM would term Munchausen but bordering what seems to be exploitation.
- Emotional liability – Parents often feel guilty, worried, and emotionally drained from trying to help their child recover. This emotional toll can be significant. We do not know what occurs off-camera. Eugenia’s parents may be asking her to get help but they hands are tied as far as the ability to force her. They can redo the 5150 though and are choosing not to take that step. No one really knows why, we can only speculate.
- Medical decision liability – If the adult child is not capable of making their own medical decisions, the parents may need to obtain legal authority, through power of attorney or conservatorship, to make decisions on their child’s behalf. This is a big responsibility. Once Eugenia either is showing signs of brain deterioration or falls into coma, the parents can intervene.
- Housing liability – If the adult child lives with the parents, there could be liability risks associated with the child’s activities in the home, such as self-harm behaviors. Parents may also run into issues with insurance coverage. Eugenia does live with her parents. It is unlikely that insurance is an issue. Based on research, Eugenia makes plenty of money to afford medical help. However, if the parents are unable to access that money, they may not be able to assist. Again, once her parents can get legal authority, they will be able to access her bank accounts and pay her medical bills.
- Treatment liability – Parents are limited in their ability to mandate their adult child receives treatment, so if the child refuses, the parents have little recourse. The parents cannot be held liable for an adult child’s personal choices.
- Reputation liability – An adult child’s eating disorder may reflect poorly on the parents in the eyes of others who blame the parents for the child’s illness. But the parents are not legally liable for how others judge them.
The bottom line is parents of adults with anorexia often take on significant emotional, financial, and logistical burdens, but have limited legal liability. Their responsibility lies in providing as much love, support, and assistance as they can without jeopardizing their own well-being.
The Hartman Law Firm, LLC is very sorry to the loved ones of Eugenia Cooney, as well as her friends and fans. Watching the slow deterioration of a young, vibrant, kind woman is incredibly difficult to watch. We sincerely hope that Eugenia gets the help she needs very soon.