Do not prejudge Galway case, says Reilly


Minister for Health James Reilly has warned against prejudging the circumstances surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway.

“I am privy to certain facts but I am not privileged to share them,’’ Dr Reilly said.

The question of a Catholic ethos preventing or inhibiting people from carrying out proper medical treatment, as defined by the Medical Council, had been raised, he said.

“I have no evidence of that, but, again, I am not going to preclude what a coroner’s court will find, and I want to await that independent investigation that a coroner always undertakes.’’

Dr Reilly said it was a terrible tragedy for the family involved. For the staff involved, it was an emotionally traumatic time and they were entitled to due process.

“Some of the comments here today would seem to deny them that, and I think that is unfair.’’

Dr Reilly, who was replying to a series of Dáil questions, said his concern must be for the patient above everything else.

“If it becomes apparent . . . and I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other . . . although I doubt it . . . that there was any hesitation here because of moral or religious beliefs, then that would be an extremely serious matter.”

He knew, as a doctor in a general sense, that often in a case where miscarriage was inevitable, it was the view of the medical experts that allowing that to occur naturally represented the safest option. There would come a point and a time where that was not the safest option and intervention must take place.

Abortion report

“That is a general comment; it is not related to this specific case.”

Dr Reilly said he had asked his officials to consider the report of the expert group on abortion, which had been submitted to the department late on Tuesday evening.

Earlier Mick Wallace (Ind) said Ms Halappanavar “would most likely be still alive if she had chosen any 44 of 47 European countries’’.

He added that, “sadly for her, and all belonging to her, she chose Ireland’’.

Clare Daly (Ind) said she was “boiling mad’’ about what had happened, “because it would appear that this beautiful young woman is dead as a result only of political cowardice’’.

Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) asked if there was in the hospital “a so-called ethos of opposition in principle to abortion to save a woman’s life’’.

He asked if there were other hospitals demanding “a young woman’s life to be criminally sacrificed for a Catholic so-called ethos’’. It was “a monstrous, medieval, obscurantist imposition on the Ireland of the 21st century’’, he added.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny did not rule out an independent inquiry when it was suggested by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Kenny said that while it was appropriate that nothing be ruled out, the hospital and the HSE would carry out investigations.

“It would be appropriate for the Minister for Health to receive both of these reports, and that we then consider them and decide on the best option.’’