Clinically brain-dead pregnant woman being kept alive to save the baby -- against parents' wishes

Protesters march through Dublin, Ireland in an anti-abortion protest in 2013. (AP Photo)

A 16-weeks pregnant woman is being kept alive on life support to save her unborn baby, despite being pronounced brain-dead by Ireland's leading neurosurgeons, reported the Irish Independent. The woman's parents, however, are demanding their daughter be allowed to die.

The story has sparked heated debate whether or not Ireland should reconsider legalizing abortion.

The woman in her 20s, whose name has not been publicly revealed, suffered an internal injury as a result of a blood clot. Doctors at the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin were unable to save her, and are keeping her body artificially alive so that her unborn baby could be delivered.

Because the baby is only 16 weeks old, the infant would not be expected to live outside the womb. Fetuses typically cannot survive outside the womb until around 24 weeks.

At this time, the doctors are unwilling to take the woman off life-support because of a constitutional amendment that gives mothers and their unborn children equal status. Currently, Ireland does not allow abortions except in the case where a continued pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother.

Dublin High Court most likely would determine whether the woman will be kept alive artificially until the baby can be delivered, according to Irish medical law expert Dr. Adam McAuley. The case is scheduled for next Tuesday.

"The law isn't clear, and when there is conflict, the matter will have to come before the court," said McAuley.

Earlier this week, lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected an opposition motion to legalize abortion outright. However, much to the surprise of government colleagues, Health Minister Leo Varadkar criticized existing law as unreasonably restrictive and cruel.

Varadkar said the ban exerts "a chilling effect on doctors. Difficult decisions that should be made by women and their doctors, a couple or the next-of-kin where there is no capacity, and on the basis of best clinical practice, are now made on foot of legal advice. That isn't how it should be."

An increasing number of legislators say Ireland should, at the least, legalize abortions in cases involving rape, fatal fetal abnormalities, or long-term health risks to the woman.

According to the Irish Independent, the parents of the brain-dead woman -- who is already a mother of two -- told sources they were considering to legally challenge the Beaumont doctors' decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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