Gilmore refuses to rule out public inquiry into Savita death
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has not ruled out a public inquiry into the death of pregnant Indian woman Savita Halappanavar.
Mr Gilmore said the priority was getting to the bottom of the 31-year-old dentist’s death after a miscarriage. “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Mr Gilmore said.
His comments follow the announcement of a second investigation into her death – a statutory review by the Health Information and Quality Authority. The terms of reference for this inquiry will be published next week.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly is considering continued requests for an open inquiry. He met Praveen Halappanavar, husband of the late Savita Halappanavar, in Galway for 25-minutes today in the company of his solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell.
Speaking afterwards Mr O’Donnell described their talks as “positive”. The meeting was sought by the Department of Health.
Mr Reilly expressed condolences to Mr Halappanavar on the death of his wife at Galway University Hospital last month, on his behalf and on behalf of the Government.
Ms Halappanavar died at the Galway hospital on October 28th, having presented on October 21st with back-pain. She was found to be miscarrying her 17-week pregnancy.
Her husband says she repeatedly asked for a termination over a three-day period and that this was refused as the foetal heartbeat was present and this was a “Catholic country”. She died of septicaemia. He wants a public inquiry into her death, saying he has no faith in the HSE to investigate the death without possible bias.
Asked whether the possibility of a public inquiry into her death had been raised at the meeting with Minister Reilly today, Mr O’Donnell said: "He[Reily] said he was very sorry and indicated he would do whatever is possible. We had a good discussion.
"Praveen let him know his wish for a public inquiry, and that that was the wishes of Savita’s family. I get the impression he is considering everything we said."
Mr Halappanavar's solicitor also spoke today to Tracey Cooper, chief executive of the Health Information and Quality Authority.
The Authority confirmed today it would carry out an investigation into the hospital treatment of Savita Halappanavar. The investigation follows a request by the Health Service Executive. Hiqa will assess "the safety, quality and standards of services" provided by the HSE at University Hospital Galway.
It has requested and received information from the HSE and the hospital to ascertain facts about the case. The authority will publish the terms of reference and membership of the investigation team when finalised.
Earlier, the solicitor for Praveen Halappanavar said while his client had no reservations about Hiqa and the work it does, its inquiry would not suffice.
“Any inquiry would be an inquiry which would call witnesses to give evidence under oath,” Gerard O’Donnell said. Mr Halappanavar is prepared to go to the European Court of Human Rights if an independent public inquiry is not set up into his wife's death, his solicitor said today.
"Article two of the convention itself has the preservation of life, but flowing from that are procedural aspects in terms of investigation," said Mr O’Donnell.
"The court in Strasbourg, I would think, will certainly look at a case like this," he told RTE radio Separately the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) has today written to the Hiqa board and expressed doubts about whether any inquiry it carries out would be capable of meeting the State’s legal obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the letter, ICCL director Mark Kelly wrote that under the convention Praveen Halappanavar was “entitled to an effective official investigation into his wife’s death which meets a number of legal criteria".
Mr Kelly said the council had “some doubts as to whether any inquiry conducted by HIQA would be capable of meeting all these legal criteria”, in which case Mr Halappanavar would be entitled to a further independent inquiry.
The authority, which has run well-received investigations into Tallaght hospital and misdiagnoses in the health system, conducts its investigations in private and does not take statements under oath but is free to draw up its own terms of reference.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn indicated today that legislation is needed to deal with the abortion issue. Speaking at a The EU Presidency Conference in Dublin Castle today Mr Quinn said "a legislative response would seem to be the most appropriate way".