Husband relieved truth about Savita’s death emerging

Praveen Halappanavar ’extremely grateful’ to midwife for telling of ’Catholic’ claim

Praveen Halappanavar has spoken of his relief that the truth about his wife Savita's death is finally emerging at the inquest into her death in Galway.

He told The Irish Times the last six months, since the story of his wife's death was first publicly known, were "very hard" for him as he had been the "only one" telling her story.

He said he had known during the week at Galway University Hospital between October 21st and 28th last year that things were not running smoothly in her care, but he had not expected his wife to die.

He was "extremely grateful" to senior midwife Ann Maria Burke for telling the inquest she had used the term "Catholic country".


Mr Halappanavar said he, his friend Mrdula Vaseali and his legal team had not expected Ms Burke to acknowledge that she had said it. It had been a “relief” to them that she acknowledged the remark.

In line with his previous evidence to the inquest, Mr Halappanavar continued to insist that his wife's consultant obstetrician, Dr Katherine Astbury, had also made the remarks. "She said that to us on day one, on Monday morning. There was another midwife there at the time but I just cannot remember her name. I wish I could remember her name. There were just so many people during that week."

Dr Astbury has denied ever using the term.

Ms Burke told the inquest on Wednesday that she had made the comment to Ms Halappanavar, but that it had not been meant in a hurtful way and that she regretted saying it. She said she had been talking to Ms Halappanavar on the morning of Tuesday, October 23rd, and that Ms Halappanavar had been "puzzled" as to why she could not have a termination as such a procedure in her circumstances would not have been an issue in India.

Ms Halappanavar had also said she was Hindu and not Catholic. Ms Burke said she had said Ireland was Catholic as a way of explaining the cultural differences on abortion. "I was trying to explain this is Ireland," she told the inquest.

Mr Halappanavar said yesterday: “We never expected that. We thought she would deny it. I was moved when she said that [she had used the ‘Catholic country’ term]. I was relieved.”

He said following the denial by consultant Dr Astbury that she had used the term “Catholic country”, they thought Ms Burke would too. He said the truth was coming out at the inquest and this was a relief to him and to Savita’s parents. “I spoke to her father this morning. They are a bit comforted that the truth is coming out,” he said.

“It is a relief that the truth is coming out about all the mistakes because for so many months it was just me telling the story. It was just me. It has been a very hard few months.”

At the inquest yesterday, Mr Halappanavar, through his senior counsel Eugene Gleeson, thanked Dr John Bates, consultant anaesthetist in the intensive care unit, and the ICU staff.

“To his dying day he will be grateful for the valiant efforts made by you and your colleagues on behalf of his wife, Savita,” said Mr Gleeson.

Also at the inquest the deposition of Dr Devi Chalikond, a friend of the Halappanavars, was read into the record. Dr Chalikond visited Savita with Mr Halappanavar in the ICU on the night of Saturday, October 27th. She said Mr Halappanavar told her his wife cried when she delivered her dead foetus. “She cried when she found out it was a baby girl. She had wanted a baby girl,” she said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times