A brain-dead pregnant woman in Ireland has been taken off life support, following a highly-controversial ruling by that nation's High Court.
The Eighth Amendment to Ireland's Constitution awards equal rights to the unborn, banning abortion. The woman at the center of the case slipped in a fall in November, severely injuring her head. She suffered brain death on December 3, but other organs continued to function through the use of life support machines.
Doctors determined there is no hope for the fetus to survive, as the mother's body begins to decay. The father of the fall victim, as well as her romantic partner who is the father of the unborn child, requested that life support be cut off. Doctors refused to do so, fearing they could be sued - or charged with murder - for letting the fetus perish.
The three judges in the case ruled that Ireland's strict prohibition against abortion does not apply in this case, as the fetus has no realistic hope of survival. They also declared that keeping the brain-dead mother on life support would deny her dignity in death.
The ruling is unlikely to be used as precedent in other cases, as the decision was based on the diagnosis by physicians that the fetus is doomed. Still, the case has raised significant controversy in the largely-Catholic nation.
Anti-abortion activists have reacted with disdain toward the court decision, which was handed down on Christmas Eve.
"[The court] is satisfied, in the circumstances of this case, that it is in the best interests of the unborn child; it should authorize at the discretion of the medical team the withdrawal of ongoing somatic support being provided in this tragic and unfortunate case," Nicholas Kearns, one of the three judges in the case, stated in the decision.
The case has garnished significant attention from media outlets around the world. The Irish Times wrote an article on December 27 noting the global coverage, as well as discussing how media outlets are acknowledging the religious makeup of the nation.
The 26-year-old mother has been removed from life support, and will soon be put to rest.
Despite possible religious objections by some people in Ireland, the local head of the Catholic Church in the nation's capital sees no conflict between religion and human rights in this instance.
"There is no obligation to use extraordinary means to maintain a life. That applies both to the woman and to the child," Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, told reporters.