Sad that tragic cases are used to pro­pose le­gal­is­ing abor­tion

Bray People - - OPINION - Fr Brian Whe­lan

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.

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