Irish Court Favors Removal of the Life Support System from a Pregnant Mother With Brain Injury

The Irish High Court has decided, but is it final? The brain dead mother will be taken off her life support system according to a three-judge panel who ruled last Friday after hearing the arguments from the woman’s medical team. The fetus has very minimal chances of making to full term, according to them.

The third time mother to be was declared brain dead. She was brought in a Dublin hospital after she suffered a serious brain injury on Nov.29. The 20 year old woman was hooked onto a life support system against her family’s will because the doctors were not sure about the legal rights of the fetus which was 15 weeks old.

The case has become a huge issue in Ireland and has made the headlines for several weeks. The court explained that it is for the good of the mother and the fetus to remove the life support system. It is just prolonging the inevitable on the part of the mother and subjecting the fetus to a condition of “a perfect storm from which it has no realistic prospect of emerging alive.”

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution that has been the subject of many heated discussions gives equal rights to both the mother and the fetus. Justice Nicholas Kearns, the president of the three-judge panel, expressed his opinion during a previous hearing that the Eighth Amendment may not  be applicable here since the issue is not connected to “an abortion case at all.”


“The entire medical evidence in this case goes one way only,” Justice Kearns said in a written ruling on Friday, “and that is to establish that the prospects for a successful delivery of a live baby in this case are virtually nonexistent.”

The clinical director at the Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin, Dr. Peter McKenna, where the woman is being treated, said that bringing the case to court is understandable. There’s no rationalization, however, in this case to continue the use of the life support system. It would be “going from the extreme to the grotesque,” he continued.

Peter Boylan, one of the leading obstetricians in Ireland, who spoke on behalf of the woman’s family, addressed the court during the hearing that the woman would be allowed to die with dignity in any other country in the world.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish health minister, said he has yet to review the court decision. After he does, he will give his own comment. Mr. Varadkar, speaking before the Irish parliament, last week said that he believed that the existing laws giving equal protection to women and fetuses were “too restrictive” and had a “chilling effect” on doctors. Later on, he explained that he was referring to the celebrated case when he made the remarks which were not brought to public’s attention.

The Dublin case was filed on behalf of the attending doctors by the Irish National Health Service, also known as the Health Service Executive. The agency expressed their view on the importance of making changes to the Eighth Amendment in order to prevent similar cases from happening again.

Paul Connors, the national director of communications for the health service, released a statement to this effect. He said, “The particular amendment was not to designed to deal with those types of cases, and certainly at this point, while there is a degree of clarity brought to the matter, guidelines will have to be seriously considered.”



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