Savita inquest told of repeated requests for termination

Praveen Halappanavar’s statement recounts the deterioration in his wife's health

Praveen Halappanavar has told the inquest into his wife Savita's death how she repeatedly asked doctors at University Hospital Galway for a termination, but this was refused because her foetus was still alive.

Mr Halappanavar said he and his wife asked consultant obstetrician Dr Katharine Astbury for a termination last October after learning that she was miscarrying at 17 weeks.

Ms Halappanavar died of septicaemia one week after being admitted to the hospital.

On the first day of the full inquest in Galway today, Mr Halappanavar spent 90 minutes reading his statement before Galway coroner Ciaran McLoughlin.


In the statement, he recounted how he met and married Savita, who followed him to Ireland where he had started working as an engineer with Boston Scientific in Galway.

He recalled how they travelled to scenic sites around the country and developed a network of friends locally.

"Savita found Ireland so peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of India," he said.

He said they always planned to have a baby in 2013 and were delighted when they found out last July that she was pregnant.

Savita was in excellent health, she did yoga and she never visited the doctor.

He recalled their "tears of joy" when they saw the baby on the scan performed by Dr Astbury at the hospital on October 11th last year. She experienced some back pain for which she attend a physiotherapist.

On October 21st, however, the couple attended the hospital after Ms Halappanavar experienced severe back pain. They were told everything was fine, there was no sign of infection and she was sent home.

However, at home during breakfast, Savita went to the toilet and emerged crying. She explained to her husband that she had felt "something hard coming out" and she had tried to push it back.

They returned to the hospital where they had to wait about half and hour because the midwife was busy, he said. When she was seen by the doctors, she was told her cervix was dilated and she would suffer a miscarriage.

Mr Halappanavar said they were both shattered on hearing this news and his wife asked repeatedly why this was happening to her. They were told it would all be over in a few hours when she miscarried.

On Monday October 23rd her obstetrician Dr Katharine Astbury sent Ms Halappanaver for an ultrasound. Dr Astbury told her that "unfortunately" the foetus was still alive, Mr Halappanavar said.

He said the couple asked Dr Astbury for a termination but she told them this was not possible.

The following day, with the foetus still alive, Ms Halappanavar again asked Dr Astbury for a termination, according to her husband's statement.

"She said, 'unfortunately, I can't. This is a Catholic country," Mr Halappanavar told the inquest.

He said his wife pointed out that she was a Hindu and wasn't an Irish citizen, but Dr Astbury said sorry and walked away.

Mr Halappanavar's statement then went on to recount the deterioration in his wife's health. He said by late Tuesday night her teeth were chattering and she was cold. A nurse brought an extra blanket but couldn't get the heater in the room working.

The next day, she couldn't hold down fluids. The fetal heartbeat stopped and Ms Halappanavar delivered the baby - a girl - when doctors where inserting a central line at 4pm on October 24th.

"She said 'it's a girl, it's a girl'," Mr Halappanaver recounted. "She had been very confident it would be a girl and had finalised a name."

She was moved to the high dependency unit. Mr Halappanavar said the last time his wife spoke to him was when she asked if her parents, who had been visiting, had returned safely to India.

Earlier, Dr McLoughlin told the inquest that he had received 67 statements and reports in relation to the death, including 53 statements from hospital staff eight from gardai and four from pathologists.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times