Lawyers to represent ‘unborn’ in case of woman on life support

Case to be heard by three judges at a special sitting in High Court

A team of lawyers will represent the interests of "the unborn" in the High Court case that will decide the fate of a pregnant woman who has been deemed brain dead but remains on life support.

The case will be heard by three judges at a special out-of-term sitting in Dublin this morning. "Time is of the essence," the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said on Monday.

The woman has been deemed clinically dead following a brain trauma but, based on legal advice arising from her pregnancy, remains on life support in a hospital. The case is being taken by her father, who wants to have her life support turned off.

The judge was told the interests of the woman herself, her father, the unborn and the HSE will all be separately represented. In court yesterday, there were three senior counsel, five junior counsel and five solicitors representing the various parties. It is understood the father of the child supports the woman’s father’s application.


The case has raised questions about the dilemmas confronting hospital staff faced with maternal brain death cases. In two known incidents, in 2001 and 2003, staff at hospitals in Waterford and Galway kept pregnant women on life support because of uncertainty over the hospitals’ obligation to the foetus.

Writing in an academic journal, two leading specialists said the lack of willingness by the medical profession and legislature to actively manage medico-legal policymaking would “only frustrate those members of the profession on the ground who have been faced – and will continue to be faced – with difficult choices.”

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times