Husband unhappy with report into Savita’s death
Praveen Halappanavar refuses to meet chairman of HSE inquiry team
The HSE report concludes there was an overemphasis on the welfare of the unviable foetus and not enough on the gravely ill Savita Halappanavar (31), according to her husband Praveen’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA
Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor and his medical expert will meet the chairman of the HSE inquiry team looking into his wife’s death later this week. He is unhappy with the final draft of the report, which he read over the weekend, his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell said last night.
“No he is not satisfied because it doesn’t answer why. It doesn’t answer the question why was the request for the termination not acceded to even when she became ill and her life was in danger, why wasn’t it acted upon then,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“From Praveen’s point of view he wants to find out why this happened, why she was not treated, why she did not get treated. It is very clear from the report there was an overemphasis on the foetus and an underemphasis on the patient. That is what all this is about.”
The report clearly concludes there was an overemphasis on the welfare of the unviable foetus and not enough on the gravely ill Savita Halappanavar (31), said Mr O’Donnell.
“When she went into the hospital on Sunday they did a full blood count and the white blood cells were up on admission. They didn’t do a blood test again until Wednesday.
“The report identifies a number of shortcomings at all levels across the board and perhaps a delayed reaction and too little too late. She fell seriously ill on Tuesday evening and that doesn’t seem to have been properly picked up until Wednesday afternoon. She was seen on Wednesday morning by the team. At that stage alarm bells should have rung properly there and then. They appear to have but not been listened to for several hours. The High Dependency Unit people only came on board at three o’clock in the afternoon.
“On Tuesday night she was very ill. The membranes ruptured on Sunday night and she should have gone on to be very closely monitored after that in terms of knowing the foetus wasn’t viable, they should have been paying very close attention to her.”
He says the report also points to the discussion of a possible abortion by the medical team, a discussion that was not relayed to Mr Halappanavar.
“There is a reference that suggests a termination was being considered on Wednesday. It was news to our client. It certainly wasn’t being communicated to him. It’s stated in an interview that it was being discussed but it’s not documented. He says that this request for a termination was made three times but of course it wasn’t documented.
“He was not told what was happening at any point. He wasn’t told she was seriously ill until Wednesday evening. He wasn’t told until Thursday that she was in septic shock. He had been up all night on Wednesday night and wasn’t aware how gravely ill she was until Friday morning.”
The report refers to the legal opinion given at the time of the X-case in 1992, by the former Chief Justice Hugh O’Flaherty, who said abortion was legal to save the life of the mother.
The HSE report quotes his opinion: “The danger has to represent a substantial risk to her life though this does not necessarily have to be an imminent danger of instant death. The law does not require the doctor to wait until the mother is in peril of immediate death.”
Had there been a reverse in the overemphasis of focus on the foetus, said Mr O’Donnell, and the welfare of Savita been more closely monitored, there may have been an appropriate intervention.
“If there was better monitoring, reverse of the overemphasis and underemphasis, what happened may not have happened.”
He said the whole experience of reading this report, and knowing it would be in the public domain, was very upsetting for his client.
“From Praveen’s point of view this report is very detailed and graphic in terms of what happened to his wife and daughter. So it takes a very brave person to allow this all into the public domain because the details of this are pretty harrowing reading, very personal details of a woman and her body and all this out in the public. It is hugely difficult for him to have all this aired in public but he is determined to do so because he wants the truth of why this happened. This is his wife, it’s extremely difficult for him but he’s a very brave person to be going forward.
“He wants to find out why, why was there an overemphasis on a foetus that was not viable, knowing that there was a risk of infection, knowing that she was getting sicker, why wasn’t there an intervention until it was too late.”
The inquest into Ms Halappanavar’s death reopens next Monday.