AIMS Ireland statement on the removal of somatic support to a woman with an unviable foetus of 18 weeks gestation

AIMS Ireland welcomes the High Court Judgement of the 26th December 2014 that somatic support be switched off for a woman who was declared clinically dead on December 3rd 2014. Our sympathies go out to her family and we hope that the family will now be able to grieve the loss of their loved one in dignity and peace.

AIMS Ireland were disappointed that this case arose in the first place. It is a well known medical fact that a foetus of 15 weeks is not viable and we fail to see what possible reasons there could have been for medics to invoke the 8th amendment and put the woman’s family, especially her children through such distress. The natural course of events is that when a woman dies in such circumstances, the foetus she is carrying dies with her.

This case highlights, the control over women’s bodies in maternity care that the State presumes itself to have. Even though this woman was clinically dead, the State still presumed to have control over her womb, and medical professionals thought it appropriate to seek clarification on whether they should continue to use her body to incubate a 15 week old foetus. The Constitution is supposed to maintain the right to bodily autonomy in life and one hopes also in death. This does not appear to have happened in this case. AIMSI sincerely hopes that no other family will ever be subject to such distress in the Irish Maternity System.

Whilst this was a particularly macabre episode of an invocation of the 8th Amendment, AIMS Ireland notes that the 8th Amendment is repeatedly used in the context of maternity rights to deny women the right to bodily autonomy in terms of decision making in pregnancy, in labour in birth and in the postpartum period. Women have reported being forced into caesarean births, forced into invasive procedures during labour, threatened with social services and in some cases threatened with the Gardai and mental health services for trying to assert their right to bodily autonomy. The 8th Amendment is also repeatedly used to justify a swath of clinical practises during labour and birth which the international research based evidence does not support. Finally, in contrast to maternity guidelines and policies in other countries, where women are given the final choice over their care and that of their baby, the 8th Amendment in Ireland is used to suppress women’s choice and give ultimate control over a woman’s body when pregnant to the State.

AIMS Ireland continues to call for a repeal of the 8th Amendment to ensure that women and their families are able to make informed choices about the care that they receive during pregnancy, labour and birth in Ireland.


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