Galway hospital rejects Praveen evidence

Staff to dispute Savita Halappanavar husband’s account of her treatment

Praveen Halappanavar , leaving the inquest into his wife Savita's death , at the courthouse in Galway today. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Praveen Halappanavar , leaving the inquest into his wife Savita's death , at the courthouse in Galway today. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES


Staff at Galway University Hospital are disputing key elements of Praveen Halappanavar's evidence about the death of his wife Savita in the hospital, the inquest into her death has heard.

Declan Buckley SC, for the HSE and the hospital, said there were differences between what Mr Halappanavar told the inquest and what hospital staff would say.

Mr Halappanavar, responding to questions from Mr Buckley, said his account was his best recollection of events last October but acknowledged that he may have got the timing wrong in some respects.

Mr Buckley said the hospital registrar would deny having told the couple that Ms Halappanvar would miscarry "within four to five hours," as her husband has alleged, or that she would be able to go home immediately afterwards. It was not possible to predict the course of event or timing when miscarriages occur, counsel said, and admission to hospital was necessary in such cases.

He suggested that Mr Halappanavar's description of his wife's condition on the Wednesday night had actually occurred on the Monday night when her membrane had ruptured and that he had mixed up his dates

Mr Halappanavar said he had given his recollection of events. He accused the hospital of making retrospective entries to the medical records since the events occurred at the time his wife was a patient.

Mr Buckley said consultant obstetrician Dr Katherine Astbury would say she explained to the couple the reason for checking the heartbeat of the foetus was to ensure that Ms Halappanavar was not left "sitting around" with a dead foetus, as this could cause sepsis and infection.

Mr Halappanavar said Dr Astbury had never explained this.

Dr Astbury will also tell the inquest the question of a termination was discussed only once, and not twice as Mr Halappanavar has alleged. There was no reason for her to go and check about a termination, as has been claimed, as one was not warranted at the time, counsel said. At this point on Monday October 22nd, there was no actual threat to the life or health of Ms Halappanavar and accordingly there was no reason to consider a termination.

He disputed Mr Halappanavar's account of having had a second discussion with Dr Astbury about a termination on the following day. Mr Halappanavar says he met the consultants after 10 o'clock that Tuesday after returning from Dublin airport where he had dropped off his wife's parents for a flight home to India. However, the hospital says Dr Astbury did her ward rounds at 8.20am and was in a clinic the rest of the morning.

Under questioning, Mr Halappanavar conceded that the meeting may have happened on another day. But he said he was confident that Dr Astbury had told him that the hospital could not perform a termination while there was a foetal heartbeat "because Ireland is a Catholic country" some time between the Monday and the Wednesday.

Mr Buckley said that Dr Astbury will tell the inquest that she never made this comment. "Dr Astbury never said anything like that to you," he said. "She didn't mention anything about Catholicism."

According to the consultant, Ms Halappanavar raised the issue of a termination in the context of having an unviable pregnancy and with a view to "hastening the inevitable".

"As far as Irish law was concerned, that was what she had to abide by," counsel said.

"The Catholic country thing was mentioned first and then we were told that that was the law," Mr Halappanavar replied.

Ms Astbury says in her statement that although delivery of the foetus was likely over within days the pregnancy could continue for many weeks so it was not feasible to use scanners daily to check the foetal heartbeat.

She also denies Mr Halappanavar's claim that she walked away when his wife, when arguing for a termination, said she was a Hindu and was not an Irish citizen.

She says she told Mr Halappanavar at the time that the heartbeat was no longer present. He denies this is the case.

Eileen Barrington SC, for Dr Astbury, said that whereas Mr Halappanavarr had told the inquest that antibiotics were administered to his wife on the Monday to treat infection, her client would say they were given as a prophylaxis to prevent infection.

On the Wednesday, she said Dr Astbury told Ms Halappanavar that she was concerned she might have inflamed membranes caused by infection. Given her symptoms she added an antibiotic and told Ms Halappanavar that if she didn't improve she might have to consider a termination "regardless of the foetal heartbeat".

Mr Halappanavar said he didn't recall such a conversation.