An HSE report, which found a medical team lacked full understanding of Ireland’s abortion laws placing an overemphasis on the unviable foetus and an underemphasis on the deteriorating health of the mother, has been criticised by Savita Halappanvar’s husband for failing to fully explain why his wife died at University Hospital Galway last October.
A copy of the final draft of the report was sent to Praveen Halappanavar on Friday. This week his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell said although the report outlined the medical treatment received by Savita, from the time she was admitted to hospital until her death, his client is dissatisfied with the report as it does not go far enough in explaining exactly why she died while miscarrying. It is understood that Mr O’Donnell and a medical advisor have been instructed by Mr Halappanavar to meet with the chairman of the investigating team, Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, to discuss these concerns.
Mr Halappanavar and his legal team are also hoping to get further answers when the inquest into Savita’s death begins at the Galway West Coroner’s court, at Galway courthouse, next Monday. It is expected that during the inquest medical staff will be quizzed in relation to a number of issues, including the well publicised claim that Savita was told she could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country. They will also be questioned in relation to failing to intervene medically as Savita progressed from sepsis to septic shock before dying while under their care.
Savita, a 31-year-old dentist from India, had been 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital on Sunday, October 21, as she had begun to miscarry. The HSE draft report into Savita’s death found that difficulty interpreting the law by the medical staff was one key factor as well as there being an apparent overemphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped and not enough emphasis on the health of Savita.
The report also includes just one reference to a termination being requested by Savita and her husband stating that this was turned down due to there being a foetal hearbeat. However, Mr Halappanavar has always maintained that several requests for a termination were made and these were refused. The report also found that Savita was not diagnosed with probable sepsis until the morning of Wednesday, October 24, and that by lunch time she was found to have progressed to septic shock. The discussion of a termination was then discussed by the medical team, however the report notes that this was a cautious discussion. Savita then miscarried and was transferred to the high dependency unit before being placed in intensive care by Thursday. Her condition deteriorated and she suffered a cardiac arrest at 12.45am on Sunday, October 28.
Meanwhile, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism has described the report as “deficient”. Rajan Zed said in a statement this week that “Ireland needed to do serious soul searching”, that the Hindu community was “highly disturbed over Halappanavar’s death” and wanted assurances that “no one would die in similar circumstances in the future”
Mr Zed added: “Halappanavar appeared to have been forced to abide by a religious doctrine of the majority to which she did not belong”. He called on the President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make a public apology for what was a preventable death.