Monday 19 August 2019

'My daughter is dead. I just want her to be put to rest'

The High Court
The High Court

Shane Phelan and Dearbhail McDonald

The father of the pregnant woman at the centre of the life support case appealed to the High Court not to prolong his family's ordeal and to allow his daughter be laid to rest with dignity.

"My daughter is dead," he told a three-judge sitting of the court.

"There is nothing they can do for her.

"The chance of the foetus surviving is minimal. I just want her to have dignity and be put to rest."

He was joined in court by his daughter's partner and a small group of relatives and close friends.

Some among the group could be seen brushing away tears during his evidence.

The man's legal team had earlier outlined how it was seeking an order which would allow the hospital where the woman is on life support to switch off the machine.

Doctors have been unwilling to switch off life support due to uncertainty over whether they would be in breach of the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which gives equal rights to the mother and the unborn.

The woman has been clinically brain dead since December 3 after suffering an internal injury and doctors are pessimistic about the chances of the 18-week-old unborn child surviving.

As the woman's father took the stand, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, extended his sympathies to him.

The court heard that the man had already lost his wife to cancer seven years ago.

His daughter was his only child.

When asked if his daughter's two young children had been told what had happened yet, he replied that they "know mummy is sick and being looked after by the nurses until the angels appear".

The father told how he was formally told of his daughter's death following tests at a Dublin hospital on December 3.

When he asked why she was still being kept on life support, he said he was told it was because the unborn child had a heartbeat and, under the Constitution, she had to be kept on life support.

The court heard how an obstetrician at the woman's local hospital had told her father: "We are stuck in a hole. There is a baby there. The law ties our hands."

The detail of the conversation was confirmed in court by the obstetrician.

The woman's father acknowledged she was a Roman Catholic, but the court heard she did not go to church regularly.

She had been living with her father for the past two years and was a full-time mother.

The woman's father was asked if she had ever discussed the possibility of something like this happening to her.

He replied: "Not in a million years."

Later, the father of the unborn child gave evidence that the couple had been planning to get a house together and had been looking forward to the arrival of the child.

He said his partner was very close to his heart.

The couple had been in a relationship for four or five years, the court heard.

They had discussed baby names and had already decided what they would be in the case of a girl or a boy.

The man said he had discussed things with the woman's father and was supporting the application to switch off life support.

"I have no objection. We have talked to each other and it is the best decision we've come up with," he said.

The man said he was aware that if the life support was not continued, the unborn would not survive.

The court later heard how on Monday the woman's two young children saw her for the first time since she became clinically dead.

Make-up had been applied to the woman's face to improve her appearance as she was now unrecognisable, the court heard.

Dr Frances Colreavy, an expert in intensive care medicine who was present during the visit, testified that the woman's daughter "was very distressed" when she saw her mother.

Irish Independent

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