Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Midwife sorry for Catholic remark

Midwife Ann Maria Burke arrives for the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar

A senior midwife has apologised after admitting she told an Indian woman suffering a miscarriage that she could not have a termination in Ireland because of Catholic influence.

Visibly shaken, Ann Maria Burke told the inquest into Savita Halappanavar's death that she was not trying to be hurtful, but was attempting to explain the law of the land.

"I am sorry that I said it," she said.

The midwife said it was more of a chat, a conversation which she regretted, and that the remark had not been meant to reflect what care could be provided to a patient.

Ms Burke had earlier arrived in the courthouse doubled over with her head buried in her hands after walking through flanks of cameras, with a friend reassuring her she was "safe now" inside the building.

After reading her statement on the clinical care she gave her patient in the witness box, she anxiously awaited the coroner's questions.

Her face and neck reddened, she breathed deeply and sipped water as tried to compose herself.

Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin said the Catholic remark "went all around the world" even though all public hospitals in Ireland are legally barred from following tenets or dogma of any religious persuasion.

"I know that," the middle-aged midwife replied. "This was not anything to do with providing care for her. It was really something I said that I kind of regret."

Ms Burke, with decades of experience in nursing, said she used the reference to Catholic teaching after 31-year-old Mrs Halappanavar, who was crying, said she was Hindu and that if she had been in India she would have ended her pregnancy.

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