Brain-dead pregnant woman being kept alive against parent’s wishes to give foetus chance of survival

Restrictive abortion laws mean the foetus has an equal right to life as the mother in Republic of Ireland

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The Independent Online

A pregnant woman declared clinically-brain dead is being kept on life-support against her parent’s wishes in case her 16-week-old foetus has a chance at survival.

The Irish Independent reports the woman’s parents have expressed their wishes to turn their daughter’s life support machine off.

Their request has been denied by doctors on the basis of a constitutional amendment in the Republic of Ireland that gives the rights of mothers and unborn children equal status.

The amendment states: "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

The woman had suffered a catastrophic internal injury resulting from a blood clot and was transferred to a specialist unit in Dublin two weeks ago. Doctors there were unable to revive her. 

She was then transferred back to the hospital she was originally admitted to, which is now understood to also be seeking legal advice on whether it can grant the parent’s request and turn her life-support off.

Sources quoted by Irish media say the woman’s parents are also now considering mounting a legal challenge against the decision not to switch the life-support off.

If the case does reach court, the state would need to be involved in order to represent the foetus.

An expert on Irish medical law, Dr Adam McAuley, said the Dublin High Court most likely would determine whether the woman will be kept alive artificially until the baby can be delivered.

"The law isn't clear, and when there is conflict, the matter will have to come before the court," said Mr McAuley.

The HSE told The Independent that it does not comment on individual cases to protect patient and or client confidentiality.