Doctors want pregnant Irishwoman off life support

Irish doctors who have been keeping a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support in hope of saving her 17-week-old foetus pleaded in court today to be permitted to turn off the machines because their treatment was becoming horrific and could not end in a successful birth.

Duelin: Irish doctors who have been keeping a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support in hope of saving her 17-week-old foetus pleaded in court today to be permitted to turn off the machines because their treatment was becoming horrific and could not end in a successful birth.

Dublin High Court heard harrowing testimony from seven doctors, the woman's partner and father in a case that has reignited debate over the inadequacy of abortion law in Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country with a constitution that gives the foetus an equal right to life. All agreed that the foetus appeared doomed.

"My daughter is dead. The chances of the foetus surviving are minimal, we have been told. I want her to have dignity and be put to rest," the woman's father told a packed courtroom. The court withheld their identities from the public to protect the family's privacy.

He said his daughter's two young children had been told that their mother was dead, but would rest in the hospital with nurses "until the angels come."

The three-judge panel said it would hear lawyers' closing arguments on Christmas Eve and give its judgement Friday, an unprecedented measure on what is a national holiday in Ireland, St Stephen's Day. Different legal teams are representing the woman, her family, the hospital and the foetus.

Doctors said the patient, in her late 20s, suffered a head wound in a bathroom fall while hospitalized Nov 29, experienced catastrophic fluid buildup in her brain, and was declared clinically dead Dec 3.

All said her family should have been permitted to bury her weeks ago, but Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion requiring doctors to take all possible measures to protect the life of a foetus made them fearful of turning off her life support and risk facing a lawsuit from anti-abortion activists or even a murder charge.

Dr Frances Colreavy, an intensive care specialist, said she had inspected the woman's body yesterday and found it unrecognizable in comparison to the woman's photo by her bedside.

Colreavy said she had practiced medicine for decades in Ireland and Australia and never witnessed a clinically dead person being kept on life support for so long. She said the woman's blood was becoming increasingly toxic.