Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Doctor 'was prepared to abort baby'

Praveen Halappanavar and his solicitor arrive at Galway Coroner's Court

A consultant alleged to have refused an Indian woman an abortion in an Irish hospital has claimed that she was prepared to terminate the pregnancy.

Dr Katherine Astbury, who is accused of refusing Savita Halappanavar's pleas because "Ireland is a Catholic country", said she would have acted even though a foetal heartbeat was present.

The University Hospital Galway obstetrician said she discussed carrying out an abortion on medical grounds with Mrs Halappanavar and her husband Praveen on the morning of Wednesday October 24 - three days after she had been admitted to hospital.

Dr Astbury raised concerns about Mrs Halappanavar suffering a deep infection - seven hours later she gave birth to a dead baby, the inquest heard.

"I also informed Mrs Halappanavar that if we did not identify another source of infection, or if she did not continue to improve, we might have no option but to consider termination regardless of the foetal heart," Dr Astbury said.

The consultant told an inquest into Mrs Halappanavar's death that later that day, as her patient's condition deteriorated, she got a second opinion from clinical director Dr Geraldine Gaffney, who approved a termination on the basis that there was a real and substantial risk to life.

"Dr Gaffney agreed that this was medically necessary," she said. The 31-year-old died four days later in intensive care of a heart attack caused by septicaemia due to E.coli.

Mr Halappanavar glared at Dr Astbury as she read her four page statement in the packed courtroom, where she will be cross-examined. He claims his wife asked for a termination three times on the Monday and Tuesday, when he alleged Dr Astbury made the controversial "Catholic" remark which she denies.

The doctor admits Mrs Halappanavar did ask about getting medication to cause a miscarriage on the Tuesday, but she informed her that the legal position in Ireland did not permit her to terminate the pregnancy in her case "at that time".

Ireland's strict abortion laws mean a termination can only be carried out if a heartbeat is present when there is a substantial risk to a mother's life.

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