Sorry to interrupt the Christmas festivities folks but something shocking has happened.
Take a moment to understand what that means: Irish women are being compelled by law to incubate a fetus, even after their death, because medical authorities fear to contravene Article 8 of the Irish Constitution.
Bluntly, the unborn child’s right to life surpasses the mothers right to a dignified death. Thanks to a court challenge this week, the nation now finds itself in the realm of science fiction and horror of the kind once explored by Mary Shelley.
Doctor Peter McKenna, the former Master of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, said the case if carried to term will move from the “extraordinary” to the “grotesque.”
But Conor Dignam, representing the unborn, said the mother’s right to life is no longer a consideration in deciding what happened to her fetus. Because she is no longer sentient - to, wit, alive - she can not experience any “indignity.”
If you just shivered and recoiled at that statement Dignam clarified, it “must follow from Article 40.3.3 there could not be equal rights between the mother and unborn once the mother’s life has passed.”
So there’s no need to consider thorny questions like empathy, morality or human dignity - having died the woman has lost her ability to comment or take action. Not to mention the wishes of her family that she be allowed to die in peace and have the life support turned off.
She is now, essentially, a sort of host.
It’s almost as if, through each heinous new outrage that makes international headlines, we are daring the world to force us to grow up, to confront reality head on and to finally legislate for Irish life as it is, not Irish life as we pretend it is.
The woman’s father, who has not been named, told the press: “My daughter is dead. The chances of the fetus surviving are minimal we have been told. I want her to have dignity and be put to rest.”
But Irish law, after three decades of obfuscation and stalemate, won’t permit that yet.
It’s important to grasp the woman’s current condition: she passed away from a massive brain hemorrhage on December 3. At the moment she is connected to a life-support machine and six syringe pumps and she is being fed via a tube through the nose.
Her body is deteriorating rapidly, doctors say. She has ongoing infection, she appears puffy, her eyes are so swollen they can not close, her blood pressure is fluctuating and her abdomen shows signs of inflammation and discoloration.
She also has an open head wound and her brain appears to be rotting. Blood flow to her brain has stopped completely.
Seven leading doctors have testified that there is very little hope that the fetus will be viable. In fact a specialist in intensive care, Doctor Brian Marsh, said the woman was now “a corpse.”
“I don’t believe this unborn can survive,” Marsh added.
On Friday a three judge panel are set to rule on the case in the Irish High Court. Lawyers on behalf of the unborn have argued the woman must be maintained on life-support if there is any prospect that her child will achieve viability outside the womb.
But the woman’s family want the treatment stopped so they may bury their daughter, aged in her mid-20s and already the mother of two young children, with some dignity.
So as the nation gathers for its Christmas celebrations another Irish family must instead contend with the long legacy of obfuscation and stalemate that has brought them to this all too familiar impasse.
Have irish legislators no shame?