Medics put 'welfare of foetus before life of the mother'

Apr 03, 2013, 03:52 IST | Agencies

Report into death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being denied an abortion in Ireland, says not enough focus was put on her health

Irish medical staff were more focused on the welfare of a foetusthan the risk to the life of a dentist who died after being refusedan abortion, a draft report into the tragedy has found.

The death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October led to international protests after her husband Praveen Halappanavar, claimed his wife was denied an abortion after medical staff told them “this is a Catholic country”.

Angst: Following Savita’s tragic death, several people took to the streets and protested against the abortion laws in Ireland. File Pic

Her death, following her requests for a termination while she was miscarrying after 17 weeks of pregnancy, has led to controversial proposals for reform to Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws.
A draft Irish Health Service report, ahead of the opening of an inquest next week, has found there was too much focus by hospital staff on the welfare of the foetus and not enough concern shown over the rapidly deteriorating health of the 31-year-old mother.

“The investigating team considers there was an apparent overemphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped, together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus an appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother,” the report read.

Doctors also had difficulty in interpreting strict Irish law on abortion, which is only allowed if it is part of an operation to save the life of the mother, over a three day period as Halappanavar became fatally ill during the miscarriage.

Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she developed back pain and tests revealed that she would lose her baby but doctors refused to perform a termination as they could still hear the foetus’s heartbeat. By the time her unborn baby had died on the fourth day, it was too late to save the mother.

Savita Halappanavar’s husband is not satisfied with the report. Halappanavar has criticised the draft report because it claims that he and his wife only made a single request for an abortion, he insists that three demands were made.

Gerard O’Donnell, the lawyer for Halappanavar, has rejected the report’s findings. “He is not satisfied because it doesn’t answer the question why was the request for the termination not acceded to even when she became ill and her life was in danger, why wasn’t it acted upon then,” said Donnell.

“When the request for a termination was made she was told, ‘This is a Catholic country and this is the law’. He feels there could have been and should have been a termination.”  

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