Savita inquest to call on just 16 witnesses

Halappanavar inquest to proceed to full hearing in Galway on Monday

Praveen Halappanavar, husband of Savita Halappanavar who died following a miscarriage in  Galway University Hospital,  after leaving the Coroners Court,   Galway,  following the preliminary opening day of the inquest into her death.  On the left is his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Praveen Halappanavar, husband of Savita Halappanavar who died following a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital, after leaving the Coroners Court, Galway, following the preliminary opening day of the inquest into her death. On the left is his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Fewer than one-third of up to 60 witnesses who gave statements for the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar will be called to give evidence, The Irish Times understands.

Well-placed sources have confirmed that as few as 16 individuals, out of the total of up to 60 who gave statements to gardaí, will be called to testify at the inquest which proceeds to a full hearing on Monday morning.

The inquest opened in Galway in January for one day and was adjourned until April 8th.

It is understood the weight of the witness evidence will come from personnel involved in the latter days of Ms Halappanavar’s care at the hospital and less so in relation to the earlier days when, according to her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, the couple asked repeatedly for a termination of the 17-week pregnancy she was miscarrying.

Expert witnesses
The coroner, Ciarán McLoughlin, will also call five of his own expert witnesses, among them Peter Boylan, former master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.

Mr Halappanavar and his solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, are this weekend meeting Eugene Gleeson SC and John O’Donnell, who will represent Mr Halappanavar at the inquest.

“We will go through everything, the list of witnesses due to give evidence and consider our position on those who have still not given statements as the evidence unfolds,” said Mr O’Donnell.

At the opening of the inquest in January, lawyer for Galway University Hospital, Declan Buckley, said two members of staff had been unable to file statements, as they were in a “difficult position”.

Mr O’Donnell said that while he had received an explanation from the hospital as to why these two witnesses could not give statements, it remained unclear how important their evidence could be.

“As the evidence unfolds we may decide we have to request that they be called. We simply do not know yet,” he said last night.

Miscarriage
Ms Halappanavar died at the Galway hospital on October 28th, having presented a week earlier with severe back pain. She was found to be miscarrying and was told, according to Mr Halappanavar, that the ordeal would be over “in a few hours”.

However, the miscarriage continued for three more days during which time, says Mr Halappanavar, they asked for a termination on several occasions but this was refused because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told “this is a Catholic country”.

The final draft of the unpublished Health Service Executive report into her death finds there was an “overemphasis” on the foetus and an “underemphasis” on Ms Halappanavar’s deteriorating health.

Mr O’Donnell and a close friend of the Halappanavar family will meet the chairman of the HSE inquiry, Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, in Galway, “probably in the next seven to eight days”, according to Mr O’Donnell.