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Irish High Court allows brain-dead mother to die

02 January 2015

iSTOCK

A MOTHER-OF-TWO who suffered brain-death at the beginning of December was finally removed from life-support machines on Saturday, having been kept alive for three weeks at an Irish hospital because her medical team feared legal consequences because she was 15 weeks pregnant.

The family of the woman, who has not been named, wished to have her life support switched off when medical experts said that maintaining her treatment offered little or no hope of the foetus's surviving outside the womb.

The woman, in her twenties, suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage. She was taken to the national neurological centre in Dublin, where tests showed that she was clinically dead.

Her medical team told the patient's father and her partner that they had to have due regard for the 1983 Constitutional Amendment, in which the state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn "with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother", and "guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right".

A legal case followed in the High Court last week. Three judges sat on Christmas Eve, and 17 lawyers were involved. On Boxing Day, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, sitting with Ms Justice Caroline Costello and Ms Justice Marie Baker, freed the medical team to end life-support.

Judge Kearns said that all the evidence went one way, and suggested that the prospect of successful delivery of a live baby was virtually non-existent. The rapidly deteriorating condition of the woman meant that the prospect for the unborn child was nothing but distress and death. The court awarded costs to the family.

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