HSE Report Confirms That Legal and Medical Factors led to the Death of Savita Halappanavar.

Galway Pro-Choice acknowledges the publication of the final HSE clinical report into the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar and we offer our support to Praveen, his family, Savita’s family and their friends through what has been such a difficult time. We are alarmed that this report has been published in what appears to be a rushed manner. It shows a lack of courtesy to Praveen who is currently out of the country. He requested to see the final report and meet the minister before it was published. However, he was not consulted prior to its release and his lawyer only received notification less than 48 hours before publication.

As expected, this report vindicates what Praveen has maintained all along. It identifies significant medical shortcomings in Savita’s treatment, as well as the dire consequences of the 8th Amendment that equates a woman’s life with that of a foetus. It outlines that not all management options were offered, which her increasing infection warranted. Due to Irish law, she was denied a termination because a foetal heartbeat was still present. Had a termination been granted when she requested it, it would have most likely saved her life according to Dr. Peter Boylan, former master of Holles Street and leading obstetrician who gave expert testimony to the inquest into her death.

This report also outlines how Savita’s condition deteriorated rapidly as indicators were ignored. Monitoring and adherence to guidelines for the management of sepsis were not followed. Once the membranes had ruptured, the chance of infection and sepsis greatly increased. The passive treatment plan to “await events” put Savita’s life in jeopardy and culminated in her death. The report states: “Delaying adequate treatment including expediting delivery in a clinical situation where there is prolonged rupture of the membranes and increasing risk to the mother can, on occasion, be fatal.”

Rachel Donnelly of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“This report highlights how the 8th Amendment to our constitution interferes with medical care in our state with grave consequences. We must repeal the 8th Amendment to protect women’s lives and ensure that doctors can provide all management options and not be bound by law to put a foetal heartbeat before a woman’s life.”

It is also possible that the X-Case legislation (Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013) due to be passed this summer may not have prevented Savita’s death. Her health, as opposed to her life, appeared to be at risk when a termination was first requested. We therefore welcome Sir Sabaratnam Arulkatumara’s comments at the press conference on Thursday. He strongly encouraged the convening of a medical and legal team to examine when a termination can legally be performed when conditions affecting the health of a woman may escalate. As he said: “much later on can be sometimes too late”.

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Draft Bill is a Step Forward but Still Fails Women.

Galway Pro-Choice welcomes the imminent passage of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy” Bill clarifying when a woman is lawfully entitled to a termination in this country as a step forward. Nonetheless, we have serious reservations about the implications of the Draft Bill published late last night. Its ultimate failure to protect women in Ireland demonstrates the urgent need for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

Women pregnant as a result of rape or incest, those with a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis, or women whose health is being put at risk due to a pregnancy, will still be left out of this bill. The recent Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll showed that the overwhelming majority of Irish people support the right of women in these situations to have the choice to avail of a termination.

Galway Pro-Choice is deeply concerned with the sentence of 14 years and/or a fine for those who procure an abortion in Ireland. Rachel Donnelly of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“The criminalisation of women who obtain an abortion in this country is utterly shameful. The sanction of 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine will serve only to punish the most vulnerable, i.e. those who are unable to travel to England to obtain a safe termination. It will likely result in women being fearful to access the medical care that they need, with potentially devastating consequences.”

We are further concerned that a psychiatric emergency is still being treated differently to a medical emergency. Sarah McCarthy of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“The rhetoric surrounding this Bill has served to trivialise suicide and is insulting to people with mental ill health. The distinction between a physical and a mental emergency is against the advice of psychiatrists given at the recent Oireachtas hearings. This draft requires two psychiatrists and an obstetrician to assess a woman’s suicide risk even when the obstetrician has no training in psychiatry. We find this unfathomable; such an attitude only serves to further stigmatise mental health issues in this country.”

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