Solicitor to meet chief of HSE Savita death inquiry

‘What we want to know is why’, says solicitor Gerard O’Donnell

Praveen Halappanavar, husband of Savita Halappanavar who died at  Galway University Hospital last October. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Praveen Halappanavar, husband of Savita Halappanavar who died at Galway University Hospital last October. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, and a family friend will later this month meet the chairman of the HSE committee investigating the death of Mr Halappanavar’s wife, Savita.

Mr O’Donnell received confirmation yesterday that the chairman, Prof Sir Sabraratnam Arulkumaran, will be available to meet them, and suggested a number of dates in April to meet in Galway. “Some of the dates are during the inquest but we will meet him in the evening during that week if needs be,” said Mr O’Donnell.

The inquest into Ms Halappanavar’s death is due to reopen in Galway next Monday, April 8th, and is scheduled to run until April 12th.

‘Systematic breakdown’
“What we want to know is why,” said Mr O’Donnell. “Apart from what happened, apart from the observations and recommendations that we know are in the report, we want to know why there was such a systematic breakdown across the board at all levels, from junior to senior positions, in the care of my client’s wife.

“It would be one thing if one person forgot to do something, or one person made a mistake that led to her demise. But there was shortfall after shortfall and lack of communication after lack of communication and she lying in the bed dying.

“How on earth did no one jump up and down and scream, ‘If someone doesn’t do something here this woman is going to die’? It is inexplicable.

“There seems to have been a situation where individual personnel didn’t feel they could or should call more senior personnel to account, or where they felt they couldn’t or shouldn’t call them in and they felt maybe they should have been able to handle situations themselves and were afraid to refer up the line. At a very fundamental level there were serious communications issues or transfer of information issues,” he said.

Why it happened
“We want to ask the chairman, did he ask why all this happened. Or does he have a sense himself that he might share with us, without prejudice.” Savita Halappanavar died at Galway University Hospital on October 28th last year, having presented a week earlier with severe back pain.

She was 17 weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying. Mr Halappanavar has said the couple were told that it would be “over in a few hours”. However, the miscarriage took four days.

Mr Halappanavar has maintained that they asked repeatedly over a three-day period for a termination of the pregnancy. This was refused, however, as the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”. Ms Halappanavar died four days after the miscarriage ended, having contracted septicaemia and E.coli.

In the final draft of its report on her death, the HSE found there was an over emphasis on the welfare of the foetus and an underemphasis on Ms Halappanavar’s deteriorating health.

Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday he had not yet read the HSE report. He said it would be unacceptable “if it were true” that more emphasis had been placed on Ms Halappanavar’s unviable foetus, and not enough on her deteriorating condition.

Asked if he was aware that Mr Halappanavar was unhappy with aspects of the draft report, Dr Reilly replied: “How could any man who has lost his wife be happy? I don’t expect that of him. He has suffered a tremendous tragedy and we have to give him time.”