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Posted on February 27, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Four years ago, I blogged about a dead pregnant woman whose case reached the Irish High Court (PP v Health Service Executive). The woman was maintained on physiological support for 24 days until the court ruled that clinicians could stop.

The family subsequently filed private lawsuits for money damages. Those cases are now ready for trial.

Recap of the Case

December 3, 2014

  • A woman in her mid 20s was declared dead in a Dublin hospital when she was 15 weeks pregnant.
  • Despite pleas from her husband and father, clinicians refused to stop physiological support. 
  • Clinicians said they needed legal clarification on what they were allowed to do because of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution (“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.”)

December 26, 2014

  • Ireland’s high court ruled that doctors can stop physiological support. 
  • The court “is satisfied, in the circumstances of this case, that it is in the best interests of the unborn child; it should authorise at the discretion of the medical team the withdrawal of ongoing somatic support being provide in this tragic and unfortunate case.”
  • The court further stated: “To maintain and continue the present somatic support for the mother would deprive her of dignity 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 consequences.”
  • The court found as a fact there was no genuine prospect the somatic process would lead to the birth of a live baby. “From a medical viewpoint… there is no real prospect of maintaining stability in the uterine environment, having regard to the degree of infection, the fluctuating temperatures in the body of the mother, the difficulty in maintaining a safe blood pressure and the amount of toxic medication being administered to the mother which is not licenced for pregnancy.”

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