Death of Savita Halappanavar

Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 00:00

Sir, – The Trócaire “gifts of change” leaflet fell out of my Irish Times on Friday morning.

One of the gifts one can purchase is the “Gift of safe motherhood” in Somalia and Guatemala. It states, “This gift will ensure the safe delivery of babies and will provide proper medical care for mothers during pregnancy”. It is incredibly sad that pregnant women in this country cannot always expect the same. – Yours, etc,

DOROTHY BYRNE,

Upper Camp,

Tralee, Co Kerry.

A chara, – Your Editorial (November 15th) states: “Earlier intervention could have saved her life, and it would have been available to her in many other hospitals (although, for theological rather than medical reasons, not defined as an ‘abortion’).”

Your theological understanding is defective. We speak of “abortion” where the survival of the unborn child is not included in the purpose. Any pregnancy “terminates”, mostly, thankfully, in a live child. Termination of a pregnancy by “earlier intervention”, with the clear aim of the protecting the lives of both mother and child, is not what is usually understood by “abortion”.

In particular cases of earlier intervention, despite the best efforts, it may be sadly the case that the survival of the child, or of the mother, is unlikely or impossible. The Guide for Medical Practitioners speaks of “while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby”. This is not what is usually envisaged by those who wish to legalise abortion. This is not theology, but clear use of language about a situation.

Our Constitution recognises the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect that right. That is humanity, even though 21st-century medicine cannot guarantee the survival of both. – Yours, etc,

PÁDRAIG MCCARTHY,

Blackthorn Court,

Sandyford, Dublin 16.

A chara, – I feel your use of a question mark in the Editorial headline “An avoidable tragedy?” (November 15th) is entirely inappropriate. – Is mise,

MICHAEL NASH,

Carrickmines Green,

Carrickmines, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Dr Mark Murphy’s assertion (November 15th) that Savita Halappanavar “ died because my (sic) profession have not been sufficient advocates for women in these situations” is ludicrous. That this poor lady died is indeed a tragedy. We do not yet know the circumstances, and must not pre-judge her medical care. Unfortunately, people die needlessly in Irish hospitals on a regular basis, because we have a substandard health system that is largely under-scrutinised.

Apart from maternal mortality, where Ireland has consistently ranked top of the heap, and is alone among such countries in its prohibition of abortion. The inquiry underway into Savita Halappanavar’s untimely death will reveal whether an early induction of delivery of her 17-week-old baby would have altered the outcome or not. Either way, this would not have been an abortion. To state otherwise, and use her death to campaign for abortion is both ignorant and crude. May she rest in peace. – Yours, etc,

Dr PAUL MacMULLAN,

Castleknock Manor,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – Apart from the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar itself, the most sickening aspect of the case has been the use of her death by the pro-abortion lobby to advance their evil agenda. It appears that nothing is out of bounds as fodder in their campaign.

At this stage we don’t know the complete sequence of events, yet the rush to judgment brigade has already reached its verdict, with the usual predictable scapegoating.

What we do know is that Irish hospitals have an excellent record of maternity care, usually close to the top of all international ratings. In stark contrast, a number of investigative reports in recent years have revealed horrific stories of malpractice at abortion clinics in the US and the UK. So criticisms from these countries are beneath contempt.

Likewise, the abortion regime in Savita’s own country, India, is a horror story in its own right. Selective female abortion being the surgery of choice, on a grand scale.

Irrational, knee-jerk reactions are the last thing we need at this stage. The stakes are simply too high. Let’s have a proper inquiry into the tragedy and take it from there. – Yours, etc,

ERIC CONWAY,

Balreask Village,

Navan, Co Meath.

Sir, – Even if we, as a nation, are irrevocably polarised on whether or not a woman should have the right to choose, can’t we at least recognise that her right to best medical practise must be paramount? – Yours, etc,

TOM NOONAN,

Harbour Road,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a visitor to this country for the past week, I have followed the tragic news of the death of Ms Halappanavar. In all the talk of unclear ethical guidelines, interpretations of Articles of the Constitution and of Cases A, B, C and X there has been no word from the church and no questions put to the religious representatives in this matter.

Why aren’t papers such as yours, and the Irish media in general, not asking for a statement from the church, let alone demanding it justify its position on termination in the light of this terrible event? – Yours, etc,

JAMES SOPER,

Walmer Crescent,

Glasgow, England.

Sir, – The Government’s insistence that we wait for the conclusions of various reports into the death of Savita Halappanavar is a stalling tactic that could cost more lives. Whatever those reports conclude, the fact is that the lack of legislation on medical terminations means doctors cannot act where there is an explicit threat to the woman’s life for fear of repercussion.

We do not need to wait on reports or until another woman’s life is lost to introduce legislation. – Yours, etc,

NOEL CAMPBELL (Jnr),

Springfield,

Castlebar,Co Mayo.

Sir, – David Carroll (November 16th) claims, “The only reason we have not introduced abortion in Ireland is because the people, and the politicians we elect to represent us, overwhelmingly oppose it”. This is incorrect. Thirty years ago we were told we needed to make something already illegal unconstitutional. Twenty years ago we rejected a further tightening of prohibition on abortion, and stated that we should not stop abortions being sought in other jurisdictions, we also agreed that information should be available to facilitate this. We rejected (again) the exclusion of the risk of suicide as a threat to life in 2002.

The Ireland of 1983 is a very different country, and while I was too young to vote, I was old enough to remember the tactics of the “pro-life” groups and the church. The fact remains that we have never been asked to legalise abortion, and a sizeable portion of our population have never been asked if they agree with the 1983 vote. – Yours, etc,

MARK MCGRAIL,

Highland Avenue,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Andrew McElwee (November 16th) presumes to speak for (the Irish) Diaspora,and states that its thoughts are with you. Whatever mandate Mr McElwee enjoys, he does not speak for me. On the other hand, I would applaud David Carroll for his honest and informed letter (also November 16th). – Yours, etc,

DONAL KENNEDY,

Palmers Green,

London, England.

Sir, – There were two tragic deaths in University Hospital Galway. – Yours, etc,

Fr SEÁN COYLE,

San Columbano,

Bacolod City, Philippines.

A chara, –   In the wake of the tragic and avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar, the term “medieval” has been repeatedly used to describe Ireland’s abortion legislation and medical practices. That label, appropriate though it may seem, is somewhat unfair to medieval Ireland.

The following tale from the life of St Ciaran of Saighir sheds light on medieval Irish attitudes to the termination of pregnancy. Ciaran’s mother had a fosterling named Bruitnech, a daughter of the king of Munster. When Daimene, another king, heard of her beauty, “he came and carried her off, and she lived with him some days”. Ciaran demanded the return of the maiden, but the king refused to let her go “till he should be wakened by the voice of the cuckoo”. The next day, miraculously, the voice of the cuckoo was heard in the middle of winter so the king returned the girl.  “And when Ciaran saw his fosterling coming to him, and her womb great with her pregnancy, he made the sign of the Sacred Cross over her, and her womb was decreased, and there was no appearance of pregnancy therein; and he took her back to the same place. And the name of God and of Ciaran was magnified thereby”. (From Plummer’s Lives of Irish Saints). – Yours, etc,

Dr PATRICK McCAFFERTY,

Brown’s Green,

Birmingham,

England.