Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Axed from inquiry into Savita Halappanavar death: three doctors who worked at the hospital where she died

Savita Halappanavar died after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia (PA/Irish Times)

Health chiefs in the Republic have bowed to demands to axe three consultants from a high level inquiry into the death of a pregnant Indian woman in hospital.

Praveen Halappanavar, whose wife Savita died in Galway University Hospital on October 28 after a miscarriage, had refused to co-operate unless the senior doctors were removed.

All three are employed by the west of Ireland hospital.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged Mr Halappanavar to support the inquiry after the embarrassing U-turn on what was the first day of the investigation.

“The three doctors will not be part of the investigation and therefore different personnel who are competent, who are experienced and who have no connection to Galway University Hospital will be appointed,” said Mr Kenny.

Mr Halappanavar expressed concerns over the Health Service Executive (HSE) plan and argued the inquiry would not be fully independent.

He has claimed that his wife (31) was refused an abortion after she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

His lawyers threatened not to allow access to Mrs Halappanavar's medical notes and demanded a public inquiry with an opportunity to cross examine medics.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has rejected claims by an outspoken pro-life campaigner in Northern Ireland that the party has a “dual policy” on abortion on both sides of the border.

Precious Life’s Bernie Smyth made the claim as Sinn Fein prepared a motion for the Dail calling for immediate legislation on the X Case.

In 1992, a Supreme Court judgment on the case permitted abortion in limited circumstances, where there was a real risk to the mother’s life.

Bernadette Smyth accused Sinn Fein of “political opportunism”. Today’s motion, she claimed, contradicts the party’s opposition to the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the province.

She pointed to a 2008 letter signed by the party’s leader, Gerry Adams opposing the 1967 Abortion Act.

The Act allows abortions up to 24 weeks and after that if there is extreme abnormality or the mother is likely to suffer severe mental or physical injury. Ms Smyth also claims provisions within the X case are “more liberal than the 1967 Act”.

She claimed: “Sinn Fein seem to have a dual policy for abortion on the island of Ireland — and by doing so have ‘reintroduced the border’.”

But a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Bernie Smyth has deliberately and consistently misrepresented Sinn Fein’s position on this issue for many years. Sinn Fein is opposed to abortion on demand and opposed to the extension of the 1967 Act to Ireland. This is our position across both jurisdictions.”

He added: “The Sinn Fein Dail motion is about specific cases where a woman's life is at risk.”

Yesterday Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey said Catholic teaching permits life-saving treatment for a pregnant woman even where it risks the life of her unborn child.

“There is no ethical reason why everything necessary would not have been done to save the life of this mother,” he told the BBC. “Where a seriously-ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment, which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible, provided, obviously, every effort has been to save the life of both mother and baby.”

Factfile

The doctors removed from the inquiry into Savita Halappanavar’s death were obstetrics and gynaecology consultant Professor John Morrison, anaesthetics consultant Brian Harte, and infectious diseases consultant Catherine Fleming. They were picked to inform the review chairman, Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of gynaecology at St George's University of London, of procedures and policy in Galway.

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