A recent case of a clinically brain-dead pregnant woman is stirring controversy in Ireland. The mother is in her twenties, 17-weeks pregnant and doctors have decided to keep her on life support to give her unborn child a chance at life.
But there’s one problem: the woman’s parents want her to be taken off life support immediately. And unfortunately, her parents are considering taking legal action.
A senior source from the hospital where the woman is a patient commented on the case. He said, “The legal advice would be there is one life here and it is the unborn child. Everything practicable has to be done – and that’s both under the constitution and the legislation passed last year. There is also a high possibility the unborn child will not survive.”
The Pro Life Campaign said the life of the unborn child should not be forgotten in the difficult case of the young pregnant mother being kept on life support in a Midlands hospital and that the woman’s family should be given privacy and respect at this time.
Commenting on the case, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Our sympathy goes out to the family of the young woman in this tragic case. This is one of these most difficult of situations brought about by modern medicine. Cases like this have arisen elsewhere so it is simplistic when people seek to blame the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution for what is happening. It is the sign of a mature society that the life of the baby in this case is acknowledged and taken into account.
“Modern medicine puts at the disposal of doctors a huge range of extraordinary interventions. But there is never an obligation to employ extraordinary means. Where doctors and family members are coming to decisions in such cases, it is appropriate that the life of the baby should be considered.
“Recent remarks from the legal representative of Ms Y in the High Court that the leaking of information on her case in both print and broadcast media ‘compounded her illness’, underline the need for restraint and respect for the privacy of the family in this latest sad case. As we have seen so often in recent times, cases like this are used by certain lobby groups to push for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment rather than allow a rounded discussion of the real issues involved.”
In 1983, an amendment was added to the Ireland constitution to protect the unborn. The amendment reads: “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.”
However, Ireland’s Health Minister, Leo Varadkar has been working to remove the eighth amendment from the constitution and calling for an abortion referendum. He said Ireland should consider abortion in cases that involve stroke, heart attack and other health problems that result in permanent disability of the mother. He believes the amendment is too restrictive and that abortion should be allowed in cases of fetal abnormalities.
Varadkar said the following about the amendment, “While it protects the right to life of the mother, it has no regard for her long-term health.” Additionally, according to the Ireland Independent, he said difficult decisions concerning abortion should be made by women and their doctors, a couple “or the next-of-kin where there is no capacity”, and on the basis of best clinical practice.
Furthermore, the Prime Minster of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, has been distancing himself from Varadkar’s referendum proposition. But this doesn’t mean he’s pro-life; in fact, Kenny has been criticized by pro-life groups for his bill that proposes to make abortion acceptable in cases where a pregnant mother is suicidal. Also, the Prime Minister has refused to comment on this woman’s specific case.