HSE still finalising details of Savita Halappanavar inquiry

 

The terms of reference of the Health Service Executive’s planned inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar will be published “in a matter of days”, the executive confirmed tonight.

The HSE said it had identified an international expert in obstetrics and gynaecology to join the inquiry team due to review the Indian national's death.

Ms Halappanavar presented on October 21st with back pain at Galway University Hospital, where she was found to be miscarrying at 17 weeks. She died of septicaemia on October 28th. Her husband Praveen has said she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated.

The membership of the HSE’s inquiry team, which will involve a number of experts in the relevant disciplines, is currently being finalised.

“Once the inquiry team has convened it will then finalise the terms of reference for the inquiry,” the HSE said. The inquiry team would engage with Ms Halappanavar’s next of kin of as part of the review process, the HSE added.

The HSE inquiry into the death will be led by its director of quality and patient safety, Philip Crowley.

Earlier Minister for Health James Reilly said the Government owes it to citizens and medical practitioners to clarify the situations in which it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy.

Speaking in Cork, Dr Reilly said there was no “difference of opinion” between himself and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore on the issue and that both of them needed time to "digest” a 70-plus page report by an expert group on abortion.

Mr Gilmore yesterday called for greater “legal clarity” on the issue of abortion after news of the death of Savita Halappanavar (31) from septicaemia in Galway University Hospital last month emerged.

"I want to [digest the report] and I want to bring it to Government and get the views of my Cabinet colleagues on where to next,” Dr Reilly said. “We do have a duty to the European Court of Justice to give them an update on progress before the end of the month.”

Mr Gilmore today held a meeting with India's ambassador to Ireland Debashish Chakravarti at Iveagh House in Dublin.

The Labour leader assured Mr Chakravarti of the co-operation and support of the Government, saying the legal situation would be dealt with quickly.

Earlier today, Mr Chakravarti said the concerns of his country over the death of Ms Halappanavar have been passed on to the Government and that he hoped steps would be taken to prevent similar incidents occurring in future.

Speaking to RTÉ, he said the death was a matter of deep regret to the Indian people and that he hoped the inquiry into the events surrounding the death would be conducted quickly - but not so fast as to affect the quality of the investigation.

Mr Chakravarti told Morning Ireland the death is being taken with “great seriousness” in India, and that there is significant anguish, pain and sadness among the Indian community here about the development.

Asked what the episode said about Ireland as a State, Mr Chakravarti said he should not comment as a representative of a foreign government.

He added the death was an unfortunate incident but that relations between the countries had been “extremely cordial” going back to the foundation of the Republic.

The report  of the expert group, which is chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan,  will be brought before the Cabinet on November 27th.

Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had failed to provide for abortion in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk. The decision means Ireland has to legislate but Dr Reilly is facing resistance from within Fine Gael to any liberalisation of the laws on abortion.

Dr Reilly added: “We are very clear on one thing and I am very clear on one thing - we owe it to the citizens of this country and we owe it to the professionals who care for them to give clarity on the law and what is permissible.”

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has sought assurances from Galway University Hospital and the HSE that proper standards of safe care were adhered to in the treatment of Ms Halappanavar.

The authority wrote to the hospital on Wednesday and the HSE yesterday, asking for further information about Ms Halappanavar’s death. A reply was sought by the middle of next week.

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