News Letters

Friday 29 August 2014

Change the law to stop this needless torture

Published 17/11/2012 | 05:00

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• Regardless of the underlying medical causes of the deaths of Savita Halappanavar and her unborn daughter, it is about time we had a grown-up national conversation about unviable pregnancies, rather than deferring to the Catholic Church on all matters of morality.

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My wife and I lost a baby in the 19th week of pregnancy due to anencephaly, a condition in which the baby does not develop a brain.

Mercifully, the baby's heartbeat had stopped in the 17th week, legally allowing induced labour.

The loss of a pregnancy is a very personal experience. Some may feel that they need to see the pregnancy through to term. I couldn't imagine many worse forms of torture than having to not only endure a pregnancy and labour, but end up with a baby who cannot survive outside the womb. But so long as there is a heartbeat, the current legal interpretation of Article 40 of our Constitution is that the baby is 'alive', therefore holds the same legal a right to 'life' as the mother.

Yet. . . we do hold it legal for those on life-support to have such support removed at the request of that person or their next of kin.

This is, to me, a complete contradiction.

An unviable pregnancy would require life-support to keep the baby alive once born (in the sense of 'beating heart'), and we do not insist on putting that baby on to life-support the minute they're born. Is an unviable foetus not on biological life-support, in the same legal sense that might apply to mechanical life-support?

I believe the interpretation of this law (if not the law itself) is ripe for legal challenge, but my God would it need to be a strong and exceptionally well-prepared couple to bring a case to the courts.

When confronted with the imminent death of a baby you've been dreaming about for months, 'legal challenge' is the last thing on your mind. Praveen is some man for being able to contemplate this, in the immediate wake of his wife's death. He most certainly has my support, along with a large portion of our population.

Meanwhile, our politicians continue to do what politicians the world over do best: shy away from any sort of controversial topic.

Let us together force our politicians into action to legislate for the X Case – and let's call it Savita's Law.

Phil Miesle
Ennis, Co Clare

Irish Independent

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