Varadkar says ruling on brain dead woman must be examined

HSE says judgment a ‘welcome decision’ after traumatic number of days for the family

 Minister for Health Leo Varadkar who expressed his ‘heartfelt sympathies to the family and partner of the woman at the centre of this case at this most difficult time - particularly given the season’. Photograph: Collins

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar who expressed his ‘heartfelt sympathies to the family and partner of the woman at the centre of this case at this most difficult time - particularly given the season’. Photograph: Collins

 

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has offered his “heartfelt sympathies” to the family and partner of the brain-dead pregnant woman at the centre of the High Court case.

“I wish to convey my heartfelt sympathies to the family and partner of the woman at the centre of this case at this most difficult time - particularly given the season,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement.

“This case and the judgment will need to be carefully examined before I can make any further comment on it. In the meantime, I would ask that the privacy of this family is respected, at this so difficult and challenging time.”

Speaking at the Four Courts after the High Court gave its judgment, a spokesman for the HSE said it was “a very welcome decision” that came after “a very traumatic number of days” for the woman’s family.

The spokesman, Paul Connors, said the decision brought a degree of clarity to such cases. “I’ve no doubt that we’ve had these cases in the past, I’ve no doubt we’ll have these cases in the future, but what’s important to say here is that the intent of the 1983 amendment, certainly to my view, was not intended to deal with those particular types of situations.”

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, approved by referendum in 1983, recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn and stipulates that the State will vindicate those rights in as far as is practicable.

Asked whether guidelines would now be given to clinicians on the issue of maternal brain death, Mr Connors said: “Certainly the guidelines are important, there’s no doubt. At this point, and I think it’s one of the things that has come out of this particular case, a degree of clarity has been brought. However, guidelines at this stage are no doubt important.”

The Pro-Life Campaign, an organisation that opposes abortion, said that while this was “an extremely tragic case”, similar situations arose in other countries.

“While it is very difficult for the families concerned that cases like this sometimes end up in court, the fact is that it is a sign of a healthy democracy that life and death issues are taken seriously and appropriately determined,” said its spokeswoman, Dr Ruth Cullen.

“In countries where there is no protection for the unborn, disagreements sometimes emerge that have to be adjudicated on. There is nothing unique to Ireland about this case as some would try to suggest.”

Dr Cullen added that it was “crass and unseemly” that some people were using “this sad case” to push for repeal of the Eighth Amendment. She said the amendment offered “the only remaining legal protection for the unborn in Ireland.”