Praveen Halappanavar's lawyers urged coroner to make strong recommendations

University Hospital Galway says blaming staff ‘unjustified’

Eugene Gleeson SC, representing Praveen Halappanavar, told coroner Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin his client was anxious and determined that some person or persons was held accountable for his wife's death. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Eugene Gleeson SC, representing Praveen Halappanavar, told coroner Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin his client was anxious and determined that some person or persons was held accountable for his wife's death. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 06:00

Paul Cullen,

Health Correspondent

Lawyers for Savita Halappanavar's husband Praveen urged the coroner that any recommendations be made as strongly and as clearly as possible and “as close to accountability as Irish law permits”.

In a submission made to coroner Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin in the absence of the jury, before a verdict was reached yesterday, Eugene Gleeson SC, for Mr Halappanavar, said his client was anxious and determined that some person or persons was held accountable for his wife's death.

However, his submission was rejected by lawyers for University Hospital Galway and Ms Halappanavar’s consultant, Dr Katherine Astbury.

Mr Gleeson said it was “anomalous” that pregnant women, like minors and the mentally ill, should find themselves having no input into their own hospital care.

He said Mr Halappanavar intended that his devotion to his wife after her death would be even stronger. While he appreciated the constraints applying to the inquest, he was most anxious and determined that some person or persons be held accountable for what happened.

In his submission, Mr Gleeson said Mr Halappanavar would go home after the inquest to a “cold and lonely place” not one full of the beautiful and unique atmosphere of a man and woman in love. He had seen enormous sadness since the events of last October but it was only during the inquest and its comprehensive and exhaustive analysis that the circumstances of her death had become much cleared.

Declan Buckley SC, for the hospital and the Health Service Executive, said it would be “entirely imbalanced and unjustified” to lay blame or censure staff for what happened.

He said the inquest had heard that Ms Halappanavar’s condition was extremely rare and she had been dealt with “as best as possible” by staff. It had not been established that the issues raised during the inquest had contributed to her death.

Mr Buckley said the finding about a white cell test done on Ms Halappanavar, which turned out to be abnormal, had no material effect on the outcome. There was no evidence to support an earlier intervention by staff to terminate her pregnancy.

Eileen Barrington SC, for Dr Astbury, said there was no basis in law or in the facts presented during the inquest for the application made by Mr Gleeson for the jury to make recommendations “touching on accountability”.

Under Irish law, inquests were limited to questions of identity and how, where and when a death occurred, she said. Questions of civil or criminal liability could not be considered. “How” in this case meant “by what means”.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with a person's right to life, couldn't be used to extend the jurisdiction of an inquest, she said. It imposed obligations on the State, and not necessarily the inquest, which could be discharged by a combination of inquiries. This was happening in the current case.

Dr MacLoughlin said he had promised the case would be compliant with Article 2 by conducting the inquest in a prompt, open and transparent manner. The accountability sought implied some degree of civil liability, but he was prohibited from going down that road.