A 31-year-old woman was rushed to a hospital in Galway with severe stomach pains when doctors told her the child she was carrying was not going to make it. In an effort to ease her pains, the woman requested an emergency abortion in order to save her own life. However, the doctor replied that Ireland was a “Catholic Country” and that they would not perform the procedure until the baby’s heart stopped beating. Unfortunately, the woman died a week later, suffering from blood poisoning that was contributed to the refusal to perform the abortion. In a devoutly Catholic country, the subject of abortion can lead to violent debate, however when a woman’s life is at stake, is it really worth it?
The doctor at the Galway hospital is permitted to decide when the health of the mother is at risk when determining whether to perform an abortion, however, this decision has come under much scrutiny as it allows the doctor’s religious beliefs to play a role in his decision. There is no steadfast rule in Ireland concerning when an abortion may be performed and its absence is placing future women in danger of being injured or killed because of a religious belief.
It is paramount in this discussion to leave religious and personal beliefs behind and focus as future lawyers on the facts of the matter. The unborn child was declared by a doctor as being unable to survive. Regardless of whether there was a heartbeat, the unborn child, in the opinion of a trusted doctor, would not be able to sustain life, period. At this moment the doctor, who swears the Hippocratic Oath prior to being licensed, is handcuffed with a legal dilemma. The doctor is required to preserve the life of the mother, however, is unable to prescribe abortive relief. The Supreme Courts of the United States and Ireland have both found that abortions are allowed in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. However, the doctor in this case was not bound by the ruling because the decision was not enacted into law.
Should the doctor be held responsible for the death of the woman or was his decision within his rights as a doctor? What should Ireland do to clarify its position regarding abortions? Should the European Court of Human Rights establish a universal position regarding abortions in the event the mother’s life is at stake or should it allow the individual countries to decide?
Photograph Source: Time