Wednesday 19 June 2019

Lawsuits over brain-dead pregnant woman on life support set for court

Stock image
Stock image
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A series of lawsuits looks set to go ahead against the HSE in connection with the handling of a controversial case four years ago where a clinically brain-dead pregnant woman was kept alive against her family's wishes.

Personal injury actions taken by the woman's father, brother and daughter have all been set down for trial in the High Court.

The cases relate to a decision by medical staff at Beaumont Hospital to refuse to switch off the life support machine of the 26-year-old, known as Ms P, because her unborn baby still had a heartbeat.

The objections sprung from a fear that to do so would have been in breach of the Eighth Amendment, since repealed, which gave equal status to the rights of mothers and the unborn.

The woman was kept on life support for several weeks and the matter was only resolved after her father went to the High Court seeking an order that life support be turned off.

The court sat over the Christmas period in 2014, ruling on St Stephen's Day that care could be withdrawn as there was no genuine prospect of the baby being born alive.

The case ended up costing the HSE more than €500,000 as it also had to pay the legal costs of Ms P's father and legal representatives of the unborn child.

The Irish Independent has learned four civil actions filed by family members against the HSE and Beaumont Hospital chief executive Ian Carter are set to go ahead.

The High Court last week set down actions taken by Ms P's father, brother and daughter for trial in Galway.

A separate personal injuries action taken by her father was also set down for trial in Dublin.

Dates for the hearing of the cases have yet to be set.

The woman's death and the subsequent legal wrangle were deeply upsetting for Ms P's family, who appealed at the time to be allowed to lay her to rest with dignity.

An inquest in 2015 heard the woman, a mother of two, began complaining of headaches in September 2014.

She was admitted to the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar on three occasions and put on drips twice.

But it was not until November 29 that doctors at the hospital discovered she had a large cyst on the left side of her brain.

She was moved to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, but could not be saved.

Ms P was declared clinically brain dead and remained on life support for 24 days because her unborn baby still had a heartbeat.

She was about 18 weeks pregnant when life support was eventually shut off.

An inquest jury returned an open verdict.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News