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09.15 26 Dec 2014


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The High Court has ruled that doctors can withdraw life support for a pregnant woman who is clinically dead.

The mother of two was 15 weeks pregnant when she was pronounced clinically dead after suffering serious brain trauma.

However doctors refused to turn off the life support, against the wishes of her family - as they were concerned about the constitutional rights of the unborn foetus.

Yesterday a panel of three High Court judges ruled that life support can be withdrawn.

They have found the entire medical evidence in this tragic case goes one way only, and that is to establish that the prospects for a successful delivery of a live baby in this case are virtually non-existent.

The judgment continues that to maintain support for the mother would be futile, deprive the woman of dignity in death and subject her family to unimaginable distress only because of fears held by medical specialists of the potential legal consequences.

The decision will not be appealed.

Reporter with the Irish Daily Mirror Cathal McMahon was in the court yesterday:Justice Nicholas Kearns said in his ruling that "to maintain and continue the present somatic support for the mother would deprive her of dignity in death and subject her father, her partner and her young children to unimaginable distress in a futile exercise which commenced only because of fears held by treating medical specialists of potential legal consequences.

"Highly experienced medical practitioners with the best interests of both mother and unborn child in mind do not believe there is any medical or ethically based reason for continuing with a process which Dr McKenna described as verging on the grotesque on the particular facts in this case.

"The Court is therefore satisfied, in the circumstances of this case, that, in the best interest of the unborn child, it should authorise at the discretion of the medical team the withdrawal of ongoing somatic support being provided in this tragic and unfortunate case. It will accordingly make a declaration and order to that effect."

The judgement adds that "this case raised issues of great public importance", and the Court will pay the costs of both sides.

Reacting to the High Court ruling, the Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the case and the judgement will need to be carefully examined.

"In the meantime, I would ask that the privacy of this family is respected, at this so difficult and challenging time," he added.

Deputy Chairperson of the Pro-Life Campaign Cora Sherlock says this case is not unique to Ireland:

Originally posted at 9.30am, 26th December


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