President says Savita inquiry must satisfy her family
President Michael D Higgins has intervened in the continuing row over the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, saying it must meet the needs of her family as well as those of the State.
President Higgins’ unprecedented comments will increase the pressure on the Government to recast the investigation in response to continuing opposition from her husband Praveen.
However, Government sources continued to insist last night that the HSE-commissioned inquiry announced this week, to be held in private, would go ahead as planned. Mr Halappanavar is seeking a sworn public inquiry.
This is in spite of Mr Halappanavar’s refusal to co-operate and a threat of legal challenge by his lawyers if his wife’s medical records are made available to the inquiry team.
“If they use those records then I will certainly be on to the data protection office and it may well be that that also involves bringing a court application by way of an injunction to restrain them from using those records,” his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell told RTÉ last night.
Refusal to co-operate
Minister for Health James Reilly conceded yesterday the HSE investigation could lack a “completeness of information” if Mr Halappanavar maintains his refusal to co-operate.
Dr Reilly’s approach now is to seek an interim report from the investigation team before Christmas and then to decide what further action is needed.
Mr Halappanavar was interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, during which he repeated his lack of confidence in the HSE to carry out any investigation into his wife’s death.
“These people are salaried by the HSE,” he said. “They pay them. We think that there would be some kind of bias during the investigation.”
He said he and his wife were told by medical staff a termination on medical grounds was not possible as a foetal heartbeat was present and due to Ireland being a “Catholic country”. “We just can’t believe that in the 21st century.”
Ms Halappanavar died from septicaemia in University Hospital Galway last month. She had been 17 weeks pregnant and her husband says she repeatedly asked for a termination but was refused because a foetal heartbeat was present.
“Above all else”
Mr Higgins said the investigation into Ms Halappanavar’s death must ensure “above all else” that women will be safer and get the medical services during pregnancy to which they are entitled. He was responding to questions from local journalists during an official visit to Liverpool and Manchester.
The inquiry to come into the tragic death of the young Indian woman must meet “the needs of the public’s concern . . . the need of the family and meet the need of the State”, he said.
The HSE yesterday published the terms of reference of its inquiry and named three new members, two Irish and one from England, of the inquiry team. These replaced the Galway-based consultants who stepped aside in an unsuccessful attempt to meet the objections of Mr Halappanavar.
The report to be compiled by the team will not identify staff members involved in the treatment of Ms Halappanavar or any other names, according to the terms of reference.