Sad that tragic cases are used to propose legalising abortion
ON St Stephens Day the High Court ruled that doctors may cease life support treatments for a pregnant woman who was declared clinically dead a few weeks ago. I don’t think anyone could help but feel for her family and sympathise with them in their terribly sad loss, and particularly during their ordeal for the past few weeks while the medical and legal people deliberated over her situation. Following the High Court ruling, at least some closure has come for the family, and they can finally grieve their loss.
What has been a tragic case, was compounded further in my opinion by the insensitivity of some people who saw fit to use this woman and her family to further their own political ends. Just as was the situation with Savita Halappanavar who tragically died in 2012, this case has been used by some people to advance the notion that Ireland needs to liberalise it’s abortion laws to protect the lives of pregnant women.
The reality is that neither case had anything to do with abortion - an abortion would not have saved the life of either mother. Following a thorough investigation into Savita Halappanavar’s death, the Arulkumaran report was published on June 13th 2013. It identified three “Key Causal Factors” for the death: inadequate assessment and monitoring; failure to offer all management options to a patient; and non-adherence to clinical guidelines related to the prompt and effective management of sepsis.
The recent case of the clinically dead pregnant woman didn’t concern abortion either, even though the reason for her continuing on life support was due to the Irish Constitution’s provision for the equal right to life of the unborn. Again, medical care, and nescience about what was medically possibly, was the issue. If the doctors were convinced that the unborn child would not survive, then they would have ceased life support for the mother. But because there was uncertainty, and at least a possibility of the child surviving, medical care was continued.
Leo Varadkar broke the news of this story by announcing in the Dail that existing abortion laws were too restrictive, and calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. One would think that a man of his intelligence, as a Medical Doctor, would realise that this case had nothing to do with abortion, and that he might also have the prudence and sensibility not to use a tragic case as a political football.
A very similar situation was reported in Italy only last week, but mysteriously failed to make it into the newspapers or onto the TV here. It was reported in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph in the UK. A 36-year-old woman from Milan suffered a massive brain haemorrhage in October, during her 23rd week of pregnancy. After being taken to hospital, she was pronounced clinically dead and there were fears for her unborn child, but doctors managed to keep her on life support, feeding the developing foetus through a tube inserted in the mother’s stomach.
Against all the odds, the baby boy was born 2 weeks by Caesarean section, in the woman’s 32nd week of pregnancy. I’m sure there were as many differences as similarities in the two cases, but sometimes miracles do happen.