Health authorities investigating septicaemia death of 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar
Health authorities in Ireland are investigating the death of a pregnant woman whose husband says she was denied an abortion following severe complications.
Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of septicaemia a week after presenting with back pain on 21 October at University hospital in Galway, where she was found to be miscarrying.
After the 31-year-old dentist was told that she was miscarrying, her husband reportedly said that she had asked for a medical termination a number of times over a three day period, during which she was in severe pain.
But he said these requests were denied because a foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told at one point: “This is a Catholic country.”
Medical staff removed the dead foetus days later after the heartbeat stopped but Halappanavar died of septicaemia on 28 October.
Ireland’s health service executive, which runs the country’s public health care system, has initiated an investigation into the incident, which is also being investigated by the hospital itself.
Reports of the death sparked an outcry on Wednesday night in Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless the life of the woman is in danger.
The Fine Gael/Labour government has struggled to respond to a 2010 ruling by the European court of human rights, which found it had failed to implement laws to enable women to have an abortion when their life is at risk during pregnancy.
Rachel Donnelly, a spokeswoman for pro-choice campaigners in Galway said: “This was an obstetric emergency which should have been dealt with in a routine manner. Yet Irish doctors are restrained from making obvious medical decisions by a fear of potentially severe consequences.
“As the European court ruled, as long as the 1861 Act remains in place, alongside a complete political unwillingness to touch the issue, pregnant women will continue to be unsafe in this country.”
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