The High Court of Ireland has issued a decision that a brain-dead pregnant woman may be removed from life support, due to the fact that her fetus has no chance for survival.

Anti-abortion activists in the predominantly Catholic nation are likely to be extremely upset by this decision, as abortion is banned throughout that nation.

The woman at the center of the case was involved in a serious fall, in which she injured her head. She was declared clinically dead on December 3, but her organs have been operating since that time, through the use of life support machines.

Doctors determined her unborn baby has little chance of surviving, but refused to turn off life support, as requested by the family, over fears of being sued or charged with murder for taking the fetus off machines keeping it alive. The 18-week-old fetus cannot survive long enough to be delivered, as body functions of the mother continue to decay.

"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. It has nothing but distress and death in prospect," court officials stated in their ruling.

Sitting on the High Court are judges Nicholas Kearns, Marie Baker and Caroline Costello.

"To maintain and continue the present somatic support for the mother would deprive her of dignity and subject her father, her partner and her young children to unimaginable distress in a futile exercise which commenced only because of fears held by treating medical specialists of potential consequences," Kearns said.

The father of the brain-dead woman asked the court to allow the removal of life support so that his daughter might be put to rest. The unborn child's father, and partner of the fall victim, said he supports the decision by the court to remove her and the fetus from machines.

This decision by the High Court is unlikely to be used as precedent in future cases, as it applies to a case where the fetus has no realistic hope of survival. In cases where the fetus could live outside the womb, this decision would not apply.

The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution guarantees equal rights to unborn babies, and some critics of this decision claim the recent ruling is in violation of this principle. This change to the highest law of the land was passed in 1983, following political pressure from religious and anti-abortion groups. Many pro-choice advocates in the nation are seeking to overturn that amendment.

The victim's name is not being released for privacy reasons.

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