A brain-dead woman in Ireland being kept alive on life support against her family's wishes because she is pregnant can be allowed to die, a three-judge court in Dublin has ruled.
The woman, who hasn't been publicly identified, was put on life support earlier this month after suffering severe head trauma. She was injured November 29 and declared brain-dead by December 3, when she was around 14 weeks pregnant. Due to the strictness of Irish abortion laws, her doctors were afraid to take her off life support, even after her parents and her partner requested it. A three-judge High Court panel finally ruled Friday that the woman can be unplugged from her machines, calling it "grotesque" to keep her alive that way any longer.
The attorneys appointed to represent the woman essentially argued for keeping her alive artificially, according to the Irish Times, saying she had "no right to dignity" in death, and every effort had to be focused on keeping her fetus alive. They also argued that as a mother—the woman had two young children—that's what she would have wanted.
The court disagreed that the woman had no right to die with dignity, the Times reports, saying in their decision, "It is a deeply ingrained part of our humanity and may be seen as necessary both for those who have died and also for the sake of those who remain living and must go on. The court therefore is unimpressed with any suggestion that considerations of the dignity of the mother are not engaged once she has passed away."
Nonetheless, their decision added that the rights of a living child would supersede those of a deceased mother and the wishes of her loved ones. They're only allowing the woman to be taken off life support because her fetus has no chance of survival. From the Times:
Earlier this week, the High Court heard evidence from eight doctors, none of whom argued the somatic treatment should be continued. A number of the doctors said they believed the unborn had no reasonable prospect of surviving intact even if the somatic treatment was continued.
The court also heard the woman's condition is deteriorating and she displays puffiness of the torso, her brain is rotting and she has a number of infections. The court was told by some of the medics and experts that continuing the treatment was not appropriate and amounted to "experimental" medicine.
The Independent reports that the woman's two children are aware that she's sick. They believe she's being cared for by nurses "until the angels appear."
Image via Flickr/Andrew Becraft