Loss of mother and child a 'terrible disaster', says Archbishop of Dublin
The deaths of Savita Halappanavar and her baby were described yesterday as “a terrible disaster” by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
“Here’s a family that six weeks ago was going into what should have been one of the happiest moments of their life – the birth of a new child. Now the whole thing has collapsed into a terrible disaster . . . you just don’t know how the father is standing up to such a terrible disaster.”
The archbishop said he was, however, “a little distressed at some of the reaction: somebody saying, for example, Ireland isn’t a safe place to be pregnant.
“The facts show us we have in fact one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world, which means that whatever practices we have are producing the results that we should respect . . . and respect the commitment of our doctors, nurses, midwives and others who put them into practice every day with very positive results. ”
In the face of all the international attention the controversy has caused, he said he was “not ashamed to be Irish” at this time, “when I look at the standards of maternal care that exist in this country . . . and I would hope that we will be able to maintain that”.
He said most doctors would “go through their entire career without ever losing a patient coming to them in childbirth. In developing countries the sad thing is that this [does occur] . . . and even in some developed countries.”
The archbishop was speaking outside the church following a Mass for the St Joseph’s Young Priests’ Society at Whitehall.
Asked about the silence of church figures, including himself, since news of the Savita tragedy emerged last Wednesday, he said they did not know what had happened in the case.
“I don’t know the details of what happened,” he said.
He added: “Catholic teaching in medical ethics is to save lives and the practice in the country shows that in so many conflictual situations the end product is saving lives.
“That may also be due, to an extent, to the pro-life ethos of all our doctors and nurses . . . Catholic, non-Catholic or non-believers . . . they have been scrupulous in ensuring the highest quality of care .”
As to whether the Dáil should act, he said: “I don’t know . . . All I’ll say is that overall . . . the level of maternal mortality is extremely low by international standards, which means that something is working . . .
“Where there have been conflicts they have been resolved – and they have been resolved, it would seem to me, in a successful way.”