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Mum-to-be's life support can be stopped

Artificial life support for a dead mother and the 18-week-old living unborn in her womb is to be switched off by order of a three-judge divisional court of the High Court.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns stated yesterday that he and his colleagues, Ms Justice Marie Baker and Ms Justice Caroline Costello had concluded that, in the best interest of the unborn, they should authorise withdrawal of somatic support at the discretion of the medical team.

"This unfortunate unborn has suffered the dreadful fate of being present in the womb of a mother who has died and in which the environment is neither safe nor stable and which is failing at an alarming rate," the judges stated in their reserved judgment.

They accepted the evidence of the medical witnesses that there was no real prospect of maintaining stability in the womb.

"The condition of the mother is failing at such a rate and to such a degree that it will not be possible for the pregnancy to progress much further or to a point where any form of live birth will be possible... while the unborn child is not yet in distress it is facing into a 'perfect storm' from which it has no realistic prospect of emerging alive," the judges stated.


The three-judge court determined that to maintain and continue the present artificial support for the mother would deprive her of dignity in death and subject her father, her partner and her two young children to unimaginable distress in a futile exercise which had commenced only because of fears held by treating medical specialists of potential legal consequences.

The dead mother, who had been declared clinically dead on December 3, had been admitted suffering from headaches and nausea to a hospital outside Dublin where she had suffered a fall and had been urgently incubated after she was found to be unresponsive.

She had been taken to a Dublin hospital on December 2 but the following day had been declared brain dead and had been transferred to the hospital outside Dublin where she was put under intensive artificial care pending clarification of the legal situation applying to the right of the unborn.

Her support is expected to be turned off today after lawyers for the unborn said the ruling would not be appealed.