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Irish Court Weighs Ending Life Support For Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman

Ireland's High Court is hearing a case about a brain-dead woman who has been kept on life support — over the objections of her parents and her partner — so her fetus may have a chance at survival.

"My daughter is dead; the chances of the fetus surviving are minimal, we have been told," the father of the unnamed 20-something-year-old woman told the court today. "I want her to have dignity and be put to rest."

Her father said he was told she had died on Nov. 29.

The woman's partner, who is the father of all of their children, including the unborn one, supported the application to end life support.

Their comments were reported by The Irish Times.

The Associated Press reports that lawyers for the hospital say though the woman is clinically dead, they are afraid that turning off life support could result in a lawsuit. There have been two similar cases in Ireland since 2001; both fetuses died in the womb.

The case has reignited the debate over abortion in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, where the procedure is banned. The Irish Constitution grants equal rights to a woman and her unborn child.

The woman is about 18 weeks pregnant, and a doctor interviewed by the newspaper said it would take 32 weeks for the fetus to become viable.

"I don't believe this unborn can survive," Dr. Brian Marsh said, adding that he didn't believe the existing treatment should be continued. The newspaper adds:

"The woman looks very unlike her normal self, her torso is displaying considerable puffiness and she is receiving the ventilator, hormonal, nutritional and anti-infection supports. ... She has suffered a range of infections to date. It is not possible to maintain long-term somatic support for various reasons ... "

A three-judge panel of the court could rule as early as today on the legality of life support for the woman.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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