Belfast Telegraph

Balance considerations: Archbishop

The head of Ireland's Catholic Church has said there is no absolute obligation to prolong life in all circumstances as judges ponder whether the life support machine sustaining a pregnancy in a clinically dead woman may be turned off.

Members of the woman's family have sought to switch the equipment off to preserve her dignity.

Doctors have refused to do so, fearing they might be prosecuted under strict abortion laws, which give the 18-week-old foetus the same constitutional rights as the mother.

Under the constitution, the foetus is regarded as a citizen.

The High Court in Dublin is to rule on the issue on Boxing Day.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said: "People will know that the sanctity and dignity of every human life is a precious thing but in our faith, in the Catholic Church for example, we also believe that death is the natural end of life and therefore there is no absolute obligation to use extraordinary medical interventions to prolong life in all circumstances.

"We are asked I suppose to do all we can to save life and to have a culture of life but sometimes if that intervention is judged to be useless or offering no realistic or reasonable hope or is excessively distressing and burdensome then within a culture of life those entrusted with this care must balance all of those considerations and that is what is happening during these days."

The woman, in her late 20s, has been brain-dead since suffering a trauma injury last month.

Doctors have previously told the court the unborn baby cannot survive.

The panel of judges, comprising president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Ms Justice Marie Baker and Ms Justice Caroline Costello, is to rule on whether the law permits the woman's life support to be turned off.

Archbishop Martin told the Newstalk radio station it was a pity to look for a legal solution to a situation in which doctors and nurses had good medical guidelines and good formation in ethics and medicine.

"I would like to think that they, believing in life, can deal with some of these situations and I believe do deal with very complex and very delicate situations in a very caring manner," he said.

He added that the family's distress should not be used in a political manner to argue for a law.


From Belfast Telegraph