‘Horrendous, barbaric, inhumane’, Savita’s husband gives his verdict

Jury delivers unanimous verdict of medical misadventure

Praveen Halappanavar photographed at Galway County Hall after the jury delivered a 'Death By Misadventure' verdict at the inquest into the death of his wife Savita Halappanavar. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Praveen Halappanavar photographed at Galway County Hall after the jury delivered a 'Death By Misadventure' verdict at the inquest into the death of his wife Savita Halappanavar. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Horrendous. Barbaric. Inhumane.

Praveen Halappanavar, his voice full of calm fury outside the inquest into his wife Savita’s death, wasted no time yesterday in delivering his verdict on the way she was “left there to die” in an Irish hospital.

Minutes earlier, an 11-person jury had delivered a unanimous verdict of medical misadventure in relation to Ms Halappanavar’s death in University Hospital Galway last October. The jury adopted the nine recommendations suggested by coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, including one that the Medical Council should revise its guidelines for doctors on the termination of pregnancies.


System failures
But Dr MacLoughlin was quick to emphasise the verdict did not mean that deficiencies or systems failures in the hospital contributed to Ms Halappanavar’s death. The rules of the inquest process meant no blame could be attached to any person caring for her.

The couple should have been celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary yesterday; instead, Mr Halappanavar was once again facing a barrage of questions from reporters, again relating his story of the couple’s fruitless effort to obtain a termination of her pregnancy when she was miscarrying.

“Medicine is all about preventing the natural history of the disease and improving the patient’s life and health, and look what they did. She was just left there to die. We were always kept in the dark,” he said.

“If Savita would have known her life was at risk she would have jumped off the bed, straight to a different hospital. But we were never told.”

Mr Halappanavar is still considering further action through the courts in Europe, as he believes his wife’s right to life was breached, he later told The Irish Times . “I haven’t got my answers yet why Savita died. I will get to the bottom of the truth,” he said.

Also speaking after the inquest, a hospital spokesman acknowledged there were lapses in the standards of care provided to Ms Halappanavar.

Tony Canavan, chief operating officer of Galway Roscommon Hospital Group, promised the deficiencies identified at the inquest would be rectified by the hospital and all recommendations would be taken on board. Some of the recommendations had already been acted on, he said.

The Medical Council, whose guidelines featured prominently at the inquest, said it would reconsider these rules after the Government changed the legal position.


Lessons
Speaking in Cork after the verdict, Minister for Health James Reilly said lessons learned from the inquest would feed into new guidelines for medical care. The Minister said he would have no issue apologising to Mr Halappanavar but wanted to read the inquest report first.

Dr Reilly said the loss of Ms Halappanavar had been desperately hard on her husband Praveen and his family and the family of the late Ms Halappanavar and he did not want to add to this in any way by making any kind of general comment at this time.

Dr MacLoughlin led the sympathies to Mr Halappanavar. He said he had shown tremendous loyalty and love to his wife during her final days.

Addressing Mr Halappanavar, Dr MacLoughlin said “all of Ireland had followed the story” and he offered his sympathies on behalf of the country.

But by the end of the afternoon, when the verdict had been delivered and even the journalists had run out of questions, there was nothing for Mr Halappanavar to do but return home “that cold and lonely place”, as his barrister described it, bereft of his beloved wife.