Dec 26, 2014 9:10 AM

Irish court: End life support for pregnant woman

The Associated Press

DUBLIN (AP) Life support should be removed from a brain-dead pregnant woman because her living 18-week-old fetus can't survive to birth, Ireland's second-highest court ruled Friday in a case that reignited debate over the country's abortion ban.

Lawyers representing the rights of the woman and the unborn child who in Ireland has a constitutionally protected right to life said they wouldn't appeal the judgment by a three-judge Dublin High Court. It normally shuts during the Christmas period, but convened an extraordinary session to hear pleas from the woman's family for her life-support machines to be shut down.

The woman, whose identity was concealed by the court to protect her privacy, was declared clinically dead Dec. 3 four days after suffering a severe head injury in a fall. The woman, who was in her late 20s with two young children, already had been hospitalized after doctors found a cyst in her brain.

Doctors refused family pleas to turn off life support, citing fears they could be sued for negligence or even face murder charges if they cut life-saving support for the fetus.

In its 29-page judgment, the judges accepted testimony from seven doctors who shared the view that the fetus "has nothing but distress and death in prospect." They detailed how the woman's body was becoming dangerous to the unborn child, with threats from infections, fungal growths, high temperatures and blood pressure combining to ensure that the fetus couldn't survive for another two months, when it might be delivered safely.

However, the judges left open the possibility that future cases involving clinically dead pregnant women might be handled differently if the fetus was significantly closer to delivery age. Their judgment emphasized that this fetus couldn't survive even with life support. It noted that legal considerations would have been different had doctors testified that the fetus had a reasonable chance of survival, even at high risk of defects or abnormalities.

It said Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion commits authorities to defend equally the right to life of the mother and unborn child. Given that in such cases the mother is already dead, the judges argued, the rights of the living fetus "must prevail over the feelings of grief and respect for a mother who is no longer living."


High Court judgment,


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