Enough with emoting: just give us the facts


It’s amazing what you don’t find out by reading the papers. The case of the brain-dead pregnant Irishwoman is at present a striking example. I’ve read reports which give information about the age of the baby in the woman’s womb, about the woman’s age, about what hospital she’s in, about what Health Minister Leo Varadkar said about Irish abortion law. But I haven’t as yet read a report that clarifies a key aspect of the case. Of course, maybe everybody else knows the facts of this key aspect, in which case I bow my head and apologise for my ignorance.

The woman is on a life-support machine and all hopes of her recovery, apparently, are gone. She is carrying a baby that is said to be around five months old. At least some of her family want the life-support system to be switched off, which would mean she would be officially dead and so, presumably, would the baby.

But here’s the thing. Someone in a vegetative state can be kept alive indefinitely by a life support machine: that is, they can be fed, they can receive nourishment – the body remains in the basic sense functioning. If that’s so, what about a baby within that person? Would it receive nourishment from the mother’s body? Would it continue to grow? Or would it be fatally damaged by the damage done to the woman?

I wish  the answers to these questions were easily available because they would make decisions about the case much more clear-cut. If the baby inside the woman cannot receive nourishment or continue to grow, and assuming that it would not be capable of surviving at five months, the turning off of the life-support system would seem logical. A truly sad case but relatively uncomplicated.

If, on the other hand, the baby was capable of receiving nourishment from its brain-dead mother, again things are simplified. The obvious course is to keep the woman on life-support until such time as the baby can be safely removed. After that any decision about switching off the life-support system could be made. A truly sad case but relatively uncomplicated.

Yet in none of the reports have I come across the key information: will the baby continue to grow inside the woman? I’ve read indignant reports about Irish abortion law, furious references to treating the woman as ‘a human incubator’ (though why that should be seen as degrading when the alternative is death I don’t know), references to other sad cases involving women and abortion or non-abortion in Ireland. But no report has given me what strikes me as the key information: will the baby continue to grow? If it won’t, switch off if that’s the family’s wish. If it will, switching off is essentially the termination before birth of an innocent life that could have been lived, with all its possibilities.

I’d welcome clarification. But then some newspapers don’t do clarification. They just do sales.

19 Responses to Enough with emoting: just give us the facts

  1. Sherdy December 20, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    The cynic in me wonders why the information required for the man (or woman) in the street would not be available, apart from patient confidentiality aspects, may be the old PR idea of ‘a good day for bad news’.
    As long as people are in the dark over the facts of the case, and the unfortunate woman is kept on life support, how are people going to concentrate on the water charges debacle?
    But then would the Irish government stoop to such nefarious tactics, especially in the run-up to Christmas?
    Their critics, of whom there are one or two, might wonder if they could rise to such tactics.

    • Jude Collins December 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

      Indeed, Sherdy. The present Mrs C made that very point to me so you must be right…

  2. paddykool December 20, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    Hi Jude …according to Her who Knows of Such Things….After 26 weeks …the baby would have a good chance of survival if removed from the mother’s body and incubated.The mother , if kept on life -support, will still act as an incubator while her body is being sustained .The baby being an integral part of the mother will also be sustained until the life -support is switched off or the mother dies.The baby is really a n integral part of the mother’s body during the whole process…every bit as much as her heart and lungs. It brings up another whole raft of ethical questions , of course.
    Strangely enough , I saw a video just last week of man helping to “birth” three “baby” sharks on a beach .The mother shark was lying recently dead , the tide lapping around her,,but her offspring were trapped inside .He had to cut the mother open with a penknife and allow each little shark its freedom.Unlike many fish who lay eggs which are then fertilised outside , the shark ‘s offspring grow inside her and come out fully-formed , ready for immediate action…..watch those teeth!!

  3. f Morgan December 20, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Unfortunately the foetus doesn’t come into the equation.

    Keeping the mother’s tissues perfused with artificial means represents extreme, unnatural medical intervention. The mother has died and this should be accepted. The foeus is not viable. Face the facts. People die. Medical intervention is NOT LIFE AT ALL COSTS.

  4. neill December 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Yes you are completely right about this without the full facts how can anybody be expected to make a fair a sensible decision

  5. Iolar December 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Excellent thought provoking article given the number of children and adults who lost their lives in the past week. As I read your article, media sources were busy reporting mammon stalking the streets. Yesterday was “frantic Friday” and today “panic Saturday”, we have only a finite number of shopping days left before Christmas. How will we cope? A vulnerable unborn baby poses a myriad of complex questions about life itself and the value and dignity of each individual in the ‘buy one get one free ethos’ associated with ‘consumer led?’ shopping trends.

    Most people are familiar with the Massacre of the Innocents, the biblical narrative associated with King Herod. Is it just a narrative or does it have contemporary relevance? Perhaps your article in the context of the plight of this child or the loss of so many children in Gaza or Pakistan will serve to remind us of the need to protect the unborn and the basic human right to live. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

  6. Perkin Warbeck December 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    To claim that the Dworkin Class, i.e., the dominant class south of the Black Dyke’s Pig, are all singing from the same hymn sheet – from The Unionist Times to the broad-casting wing of same, RTE – when it comes to the interminable topic of abortion may be overstating it just a little.

    Perhaps humming from the same hymn sheet might suffice: you only need to hear the introductory notes of the tune being hummed to instantly recognise the lyrics that are (yawn) sure to follow just as the n. (see far below) follows the day.

    The memory of that much neglected angel of death, Nurse Cadden, is both alive, well and sweeping the Free Southern Stateen at this moment in rhyme and it is a fair bet that the real celebration of 1916 – the 60th anniversary of her martyrdom – will be the passing of the Distortion Act .

    A victory that will gladden the livewire Dworks and madden the deadhead Waxworks. Those so and so’s from Tussaud’s will be finally consigned to the museum of folk memory in the liberated, FSS. It is anticipated that the analog statue of Fr. Mathew will be pulled down in O’Connell Street and replaced with one of the bronze-hearted Nurse Cadden, aka The Gliberator, in celebration.

    Gin is the link between Fr. Mathew and Nurse Cadden, in two ways: whereas the Cork dry wit was, as it were, agin the gin, NC was wont to extol the benefits of soaking in a gin bath.

    Gin,too, is the leprechaun for ‘conception’ while ginmhilleadh (pronounced gin villa) is ditto for ‘abortion’. Sniff the air in Dublin and one’s nostrils will detect without undue distress the liquourice whiff of Seville orange peel, lemon peel, bitter almond, angelica, both root and seed, juniper, liquorice,orris root,coriander, a blend of Chinese green and Japanese teas and grapefruit teas. (Coriander is your only man when it comes to getting your dander up).

    The ingredients of Beefeater’s gin? Scarcely needs a confirmation except to say what is good enough for the London sur Thames goose ought to be more than the same for the Lesser London sur Liffey gin-guzzling gander.

    The Yawnaiste was quick into the stirrups, as it were, to tush push the party line, ashrill with highbrow contralto notes : ‘Speaking as a woman’, she spoke as a woman: ‘don’t argue with me and the William Haig, oops, the foetus in my arms’.

    Lady Oracle (64) has spoken, and let no mere male dogs bark. One almost expected her to break into Eartha Kitt mode as she continued to stir up the, erm, purrfect storm:

    ‘I’ll ask for such simple things when my birthday occurs:
    Two apartment buildings that are labelled ‘hers’ and ‘hers’.

    So much is Sinister House under the thumb of The Unionist Times that it feels duty bound and duly obliged to revive the almost moribund FSS art of the arch-politician genuflecting to the Archbishop. From the Tall One to the Small One of the Laborious Party.

    Thus in today’s lethargy column of TUT we find Brendan H, (for it is he!) Minister of A List of Portfolios Longer than Himself, playing a friendly though competitive game of pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake with His Eminence, F.O’Toole over some topic or other of solemn tedium. Brendan and Your Grace are some comical duo. They do have you howling in the Emerald aisles, they do.

    That they were not at, erm, loggerheads lite about the ‘bun in the oven’ topic is an indication of how tightly TUT, the spiritiual home of the Dworkin Class, controls the, erm, thinking of Sinister House is further evidenced by the de rigeur appearance, also in today’s edition, by the beleagured Can of Cola himself, aka The Catcall One.

    Beefeater Barret’s reasoned yet impassioned contribution might be distilled thus:

    -Who the Eff do the Shinners think I’m supposed to be: an impartial effin’ Ref?

    And then there was the frankly speaking Frank McNally who takes a comical view of things, so much so he is often affectionately known as Francis the Talking Mule who stepped into the horseshoes of Myles na Gopaleen, was discussing a specific kind of hymnbook, ie., the Christmas Carol volume:

    ‘Christmas is the worst time, always. Most of the year, I can cope quite well with not being a Protestant. But every December, around now, I start to feel that as a lapsed Catholic I’m missing out on something. It’s partly the hymns, of which Protestants famously have the best’.

    Er, come again. Another hee-haw, por favor.

    Could it be that Francis the Honking Donkey has been so long lapsed he has already forgotten such obscure RC hymns as ‘Stille Nacht’ and ‘Cantique de Noel’ or ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O,Holy Night’ in the Q’s English?

    But then, as the advertising jingle bells ring out: ‘Miss the Daily Times and you miss part of the Night’.

    The Dworkin Class has been truly dworkin 24/7 in the Free Southern Stateen: not only have they succeeded in branding the waters of AVOCA (A Victim of Child Abuse) with the RC tag (Roman Catholic and Republican Community) but they have also lamebrain-washed the asinine of attitude that the RCs have no carols worth singing about.

    Truly, has the Divil and all, all the best tunes, especially at Xmas time.

    It will be noted that compiler of The Irishman’s Diarrhea was quick to link the l-word lapsed with the Catholic one, status wise,like. Just as Ray the Arse was not shy in trumpeting his A-word, that would be his Atheism, after landing his 500 K joblet from the public purse, with RTE.

    Dis is De rigeur, Dworkin style.

    Mine’s a Beefeater, with a dropeen of orange juice.

  7. Jim Lynch December 20, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    I’m not sure if this case would fall under the ethical question known as, the principle of double effect;

    “This principle aims to provide specific
    guidelines for determining when it is morally permissible to perform an action in pursuit of a good end in full knowledge that the action will also bring about bad results. The principle has its historical roots in the medieval natural law tradition, especially in the thought of Thomas Aquinas (1225? -1274), and has been refined both in its general formulation and in its application by generations of Catholic moral theologians.”

    There are cases of babies as young as 23 weeks gestation surviving outside the worm with the help of today’s advanced technology.
    The fetus in this instant is around 20 weeks, so if this mother can provide a lifeline until the fetus has a chance of survival outside the womb, then the ethical/moral question of ‘double effect’ would apply.

    By the way our own little grandaughter was 3 months premiture and even though she spends many weeks in an incubater in Intensive Care. She is now at 15 months, a going consern. She skipped the walking stage her little legs move at worp speed as she runs rings around me. I have to have my head on a swivel to keep up with her. Lol!

  8. James December 20, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    A word in reply to f Morgan’s post above and his or her comment stating ‘Unfortunately the foetus doesn’t come into the equation’. I’ll keep it short.. Yes, the foetus does come into the equation, who are you to decide whether someone should live or die?

  9. ben madigan December 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    i’ve tried to explore some of the ethical issues (which have nothing to do with abortion)
    and cited 3 other cases – 2 with women kept on life support until delivered by caesarian section, and another not
    The irish woman is reportedly 17 weeks pregant and foetuses are generally able to survive after 24 weeks albeit as jim says with a lot of modern medical help

    Although catholic moral theologians may have updated mediaeval concepts – given their track record – i wonder what place the woman had in their world view.

    Anyway here’s the place she and her next of kin have in mine in the 21st century !!


  10. Pointis December 21, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Hi Jude,

    I don’t know the specifics of this case as it would seem most of the general public are similarly unaware but it would seem that carrying the foetus until he/she would have a viable chance to survive is certainly feasible. The Doctors dealing in this tragic case obviously would know best.


  11. Jim Lynch December 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm #


    “The baby is really a n integral part of the mother’s body during the whole process…every bit as much as her heart and lungs. It brings up another whole raft of ethical questions , of course.”

    Sorry paddykool your wrong on the above. The baby has it’s own genetic code distinctly different from the mother’s. Half of it’s 46 chromosomes are from the father, so there’s more than the mother’s involvement in this little human.
    Therefore this little unborn human is separate and unique. That’s why we use the term, individuals.

  12. f Morgan December 21, 2014 at 7:43 pm #


    I decided nothing. The mother is dead. The natural course is that a foetus will die with the mother. Artificial ventilation and parenteral nutrition without chance of recovery is an excessively burdensome and extreme intervention. Who are you to play (your) God?

    • Patrick Mc December 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      F Morgan: funny enough our priest spoke about this yesterday during his Homily and the following through of the natural order and to be honest, I tend to agree with that argument. But not in this context as it was in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities for which there is a consideration to change the Abortion Laws in Northern Ireland. Surely this is the Natural Order and the mother should just accept and not be given permission to carry through an abortion?

  13. James December 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

    In reply to f Morgan’s comment ‘The mother is dead. The natural course is that a foetus will die with the mother’. That might have been the case many years ago. With the advance of medical knowledge and expertise today there is every chance that the baby’s life can be saved. I am sure any mother would want that for her child. Of course there may be other issues around the situation that the general public are not privy to. In the absence of that information we can but hope for a positive outcome from what is a tragic situation for all concerned.

  14. ben madigan December 21, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    The doctors have decided the woman is dead.
    They are the professional people who have the expertise to do this.

    The woman’s next of kin have accepted what the doctors told them and want to suspend “death support”

    Who has the right to interfere in this process? It happens every day in other tragic circumstances with no interference from anybody

    Why should it be any different because the woman is carrying an unviable foetus?

    please do read the link to my blog which I have already posted above and think over some of the questions I raised.

  15. Jim Lynch December 22, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Excuse my error here is the correction;

    “you’re wrong.”

    To early in the morning this side of the Atlantic.

  16. James December 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Hi Ben, thanks for the reply. I have read the link which you supplied in an earlier post. I cannot agree with your view in any shape or form. We should just accept that we are poles apart on the question. At least, taking things from my viewpoint, there is the possibility of a positive outcome from the whole tragic situation. It seems to me that your viewpoint offers nothing except the fact that two lives will be lost. In attempting to save the life of the baby should we not light a candle rather than curse the dark? By the way I wholeheartedly agree with you on many topics, but not this one!

  17. ben madigan December 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Thanks for such a gracious reply james
    We will agree to differ on this issue.
    Best wishes for a lovely Christmas