Savita's husband 'very upset' by leaking of inquiry report
Savita Halappanavar died at the hospital on October 28th last year, a week after she presented with back pain and was found to be miscarrying. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA
Savita Halappanavar’s husband is said to be “very upset” by the leaking of a draft report into his wife’s death.
Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor Gerard O’Donnell said today he and his client have yet to see the report of the HSE inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Ms Halappanavar died at Galway University Hospital on October 28th last year, a week after she presented with back pain and was found to be miscarrying.
Details from a draft report into the 31-year-old’s death were published in the Evening Herald newspaper.
“He’s very upset. Savita’s family are very upset. They are very upset at these details coming into the public without them having had an opportunity of viewing the report,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“If what was published today were extracts from the report then all they do is, in some ways, vindicate what my client said from the outset as to the way his wife was treated at University Hospital, Galway,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“Neither I nor Praveen have seen any copy of the report, draft or otherwise. We just got word at 7.30 this morning that it would be published in the media at noon,” he told The Irish Times.
"It is very disappointing we were not afforded an opportunity to look at it first."
Mr O’Donnell said they had been contacted last week by the HSE, inviting them to participate “at a critical juncture" in the inquiry but that they “politely declined”.
Minister for Health James Reilly today declined to comment on the leak, saying he had not seen the report. "I haven't seen it and I don't have it," Dr Reilly said.
He said he expected to receive the HSE's report in 10 days and he intended to publish it "thereafter" provided there were no legal reasons not to do so.
Dr Reilly said the report is out for consultation, with interested parties given the opportunity to challenge inaccuracies. He said the inquiry team had carried out its work within the set time.
“I owe it to Mr Halappanavar and Savita’s family. And I think we owe it to the women of Ireland as well, who have to be assured there is a safe service for them when they go to have their baby,” he said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted the priority should be to explain the findings to Ms Halappanavar's husband, Praveen. “That report is not finalised and has not been received by the minister,” Mr Kenny said.
“I would have expected that the husband of the late woman should be the first person who should be briefed about what has happened here, and I am not going to make any comment about newspaper reports because this report is not concluded, it’s not finalised and has not been received by the minister."
“When it is, the first person to be briefed about the report should be her husband.”
However, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher called for the report to be published immediately.
“We cannot have a situation where an issue as sensitive and serious as this is being reported on in the media, based on a partial leaking of the document, and the family concerned and the public do not have access to the full facts,” Mr Kelleher said.
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the details outlined in the report were too sensitive for the minister to wait 10 days before publishing it.
The HSE inquiry into her death was established on November 20th under the chairman ship of Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s Hospital, University of London.
The inquiry team had initially included three staff members from Galway University Hospital although they were later removed and replaced following objections by Mr Halappanavar.
Mr Halappanavar said, after her death, that she had been in pain and repeatedly asked for a medical termination over a three-day period but this was refused as a foetal heartbeat was still present and the couple were told “this is a Catholic country”.
She died in the hospital’s intensive care unit, four days after the foetal heartbeat stopped. An autopsy found Ms Halappanavar had died of septicaemia.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said today the lack of clear guidelines on abortion may have tied the hands of doctors dealing with the case of Ms Halappanavar.
Mr Rabbitte said Government had to assure medical staff that they are "never again in circumstances where they feel that their hands are tied".
Ms Halappanavar's death "might have been avoided," he said in an interview with Newstalk radio.
The full inquest into Ms Halappanavar’s death will start on April 8th at Galway Courthouse and will last a week. Five expert witnesses will be called, including the former master of the National Maternity Hospital, Peter Boylan.