Patrick Enright is suing Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, Ireland and the Attorney General for breach of the constitutional rights of his unborn child, Mollie Enright.
Mollie’s mother, Mary Enright, died instantly when the car she was driving collided with another car. Both drivers were declared dead on the scene.
At the inquest into the crash, which occurred in March 2012, the jury returned verdicts in agreement with the coroner; that both Mary Enright and Robert Stoker had died of multi-traumatic injuries and that Mary’s unborn baby had died due to a lack of oxygen after her mother’s death.
The inquest heard that the case raises serious issues as to whether “the unborn child” should be assigned a death certificate.
Before evidence was given at the inquest, the coroner stated he had researched the registration of the term “birth”. He said that the issue was that it must be proven that a person has been born before they can be issued a death certificate. He also said that there was an issue in defining “the unborn child” in an autopsy without being separated from the mother.
The coroner was satisfied to register Mollie’s death on a death certified as a stillbirth. However Patrick Enright and his father David Walsh asked the coroner not to make that ruling. They want Mollie’s death to be registered as a road traffic accident.
Mr Walsh said the coroner’s view was disappointing. “They say the Constitution protects the unborn child but in this case it has not”, he said. The family intends to continue its constitutional challenge.
Mr Enright is seeking a series of High Court declarations, including a declaration that Mollie was an “unborn” child within the meaning of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, the amendment which gives equal constitutional rights to an expectant woman and her unborn. Mr Enright believes that the definition of “stillborn child” and “stillbirth” in the 2004 act is in contradiction to six separate provisions of the Constitution, including the Eighth Amendment.
By continuing to pursue the case, the family may force the State to declare a ruling on the point at which an unborn foetus becomes a person.