Teaching Law

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Is my body my own?

Sadly, late last month, an Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar, died of septicemia in an Irish hospital.  The source of her infection was her dying foetus.  Yet doctors refused her the termination that would save her life, because the dying foetus still had a heartbeat.  The life of this woman ended because, in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, the 'life' (such as it was) of the foetus was paramount.

While press reports indicate that in Ireland obstetricians have a duty to act in the best interests of the mother, there is apparently a lack of clarity in this jurisdiction as to when the medical profession can intervene lawfully.

This case highlights, yet again, the issue of bodily integrity for women and the extent of State intervention into women's autonomy over themselves.  This concern is not limited to Ireland, but exists around the world.