Live or let die?: Fine margins between life and death in a brain-dead pregnancy

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In PP v Health Service Executive, the Irish High Court was recently asked to decide on the lawfulness of maintaining somatic treatment that was being provided to a brain-dead woman who was 15-weeks pregnant. In delivering judgment, Kearns P held that the treatment should not be maintained and that the artificial support being provided to the woman could lawfully be withdrawn. The legal basis for this ruling, however, is not free from criticism. The focus of this discussion is to consider how an English court would deal with a case similar to this should the need ever arise. There are crucial differences between English and Irish law which could impact upon the reasoning and, quite possibly, the outcome. Given that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a similar case could occur in England at some point in the future, it is important that a number of legal questions are explored and their implications illuminated.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfwx026
Pages (from-to)628–653
Number of pages26
JournalMedical Law Review
Issue number4
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Brain-Stem Death
  • Mother
  • Foetus
  • Relatives
  • Interests

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