Belfast Telegraph

Widower sues over hospital death

The widower of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar has initiated legal proceedings against health chiefs and his wife's obstetrician.

Praveen Halappanavar had his legal team serve a personal injury summons against the Health Service Executive (HSE) West and Dr Katherine Astbury yesterday, alleging negligence in the death of the 31-year-old.

As the anniversary of Mrs Halappanavar's death approaches, solicitor Gerard O'Donnell said his client was anxious to start putting the tragedy behind him.

"He is anxious to bring this chapter of his life to a close, there is no doubt about it," Mr O'Donnell said.

"With the anniversary of her death coming up, he wants to start putting what he can behind him."

Mrs Halappanavar died on October 28 last year at Galway University Hospital. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital a week earlier undergoing a miscarriage. She suffered from septicaemia.

Her widower has maintained that she repeatedly requested a termination but was refused because a foetal heartbeat was present.

Mr O'Donnell said his client's case is based on the fact that Mrs Halappanavar's "constitutional right to life was violated".

He said the HSE's legal representation now has eight days to formally respond to the papers and a further 21 days to put in a defence.

Mr O'Donnell and Mr Halappanavar have also put in a request to meet Health Minister James Reilly.

An inquest in April into the pregnant woman's death returned a verdict of medical misadventure, but no blame was attributed to any individuals.

A separate inquiry found medics in the Galway hospital missed an early opportunity to terminate her pregnancy on health grounds and unacceptable clinical practice.

The case sparked massive debate among obstetricians and politicians over whether the guidelines medics had been operating under were clear.

It also caused worldwide outcry and led to the Government eventually passing legislation for the first time to allow abortion in limited circumstances, which was enshrined into law during the summer.

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