Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital

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Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Intensive care 

The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.

 

Written By: Kitty Holland and Paul Cullen
continue to source article at irishtimes.com

96 COMMENTS

  1. I saw this earlier on Dara O’Briain’s Twitter feed and I was absolutely disgusted by what I read. This is truly scandalous and the people involved should suffer the maximum possible consequences for their inhumanity and indifference.

  2. This is an appalling story of religious bigotry. Can anybody who knows the Irish medical system advise?  What is the body equivalent to the British Medical Association to whom we should write, asking that those responsible at University Hospital, Galway should be struck off. Shouldn’t they actually be arrested by the Gardai and tried?

    Richard

  3. This is disgusting, if this story checks out. This is nothing short of religious terrorism, killing people of other faiths to please your own petty god.

    Hope the family sues the hospital for everything it’s got. Not that it should end there, this is a shame for the Irish government and their medieval laws. Actually it’s shame for the whole of EU to allow such barbaric laws. Hope the civilized part of Europe starts putting some pressure on Ireland.

    Won’t be spending my holiday Euros in Ireland again, with or without my family.

  4. I’m sceptical that this really COULD be the law of Ireland. Ireland is a decent, civilised country, now in the throes of throwing off the disgusting yoke of Catholicism. If any of our readers is acquainted with Irish law, could they confirm whether, as I gravely doubt, those who refused this woman proper medical treatment were in fact obeying the law of Ireland or merely their own Catholic bigotry.

    Richard

  5. This is why professionals, in any field, cannot be allowed to pick and choose what they will do.
    I hope her husband is able to sue every individual, the hospital and the state for insane levels of compensation.Such a pity he can’t sue Ratzo as well. 

  6.  Richard

    Not an expert in Irish law, but Wiki says this in summary:

    “No clear result or consensus has emerged. In theory, abortion is legal
    in Ireland if there is a risk to the life of the woman. A provision
    exists in the Irish constitution to allow Dáil Éireann to legislate on this; however, no political party has risked it.”

    So still ambiguous.

  7. Hippocratic Oath mean anything to these people? regardless of clinging to such backward laws, these are medical professinals. did they honestly think best hold back for a last minute miracle? such a mindset has no place in any hospital

  8. Irish medical council regulates doctors in Ireland. Bma is a trade union for doctors in uk. It is not appropriate to get the doctors struck off, some of them will be junior doctors only following what their lead physician has told them to do, what kind of position would they be in if they were struck off. It is also not your job to do this. Doctors work within the laws of their practicing country, it is inappropriate for them to break laws and make their own laws, legislators must change the law.

  9. Ooops! I found the same article in Twitter and posted it under “Difficulties believers have with science”, because I thought it had to do also with separating science from morality.

    My apologies.

  10. After a quick internet search it seems clear that the Irish abortion laws are the strictest in the EU, and apparently quite strictly implemented also in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is in medical danger. There seem to be several cases which warrant my calling the Irish abortion laws and their practical implementations barbaric. There may be legal consequences even in Ireland, but clearly the Galway hospital wasn’t taking any huge leap from the precedent abortion ethics in Ireland.

    Basically, abortion in the Republic of Ireland is illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother. A constitutional amendment from 1983 states that ”The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

    While ambiguous, this fairly recent amendment can arguably be interpreted as equating the life of the fetus with that of the mother. So the life of the fetus couldn’t be terminated to save the mother, unless the life of the mother were in absolute danger. Probably the Galway hospital will argue that the mother’s septicaemia wasn’t really that probable at the time they requested the abortion.

    The barbary of the catholic morality is that it’s based on the categorical imperative with no regard to consequentalist ethics. Even the catholic doctor knows the life of the fetus will end in a few days anyway, in that twisted mind those 2-3 insentient fetal days are just as valuable as the decades of healthy future of the mother. 

    And the fact that this practice is forced on a non-catholic person expecting civilized medical care makes it all the more arrogant.

  11. Yes.  It would be immoral not to do anything about such religious savagery.
    Used to discuss this (preference of fetus over mother) with Italian catholic priests in Europe  many years ago.  They were trying to convert me, but the discussion always ended in their defeat and  anger.   Glad and proud for being an atheist for 38 years.  I cannot imagine myself still a Muslim today.  It would be a waist of my precious life.

    Thanks for this website!!

  12.  

    some of them will be junior doctors only following what their lead physician has told them to do

    I’m seem to recall that ‘just obeying orders’ is not considered a valid defence for an action; especially when it results in the loss of life.

    what kind of position would they be in if they were struck off

    They’d be alive, which is more than can be said for their patient.

    This should be investigated fully and, if the cause of death was truly because of the denial of an abortion in a country where it’s apparently legal, then anyone who denied it on non-medical grounds should be disciplined appropriately for it.

  13.  ‘This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.’

    No. It isn’t. There is no such thing as a ‘Catholic Country’, only Catholic people. Countries have no consciousness, beliefs, conscience or indeed liability, they are mindless legislative constructs.

    Would a doctor who had been struck off the Irish medical register for acting in the best interests of the mother be allowed to practice in a civilised country?

  14.  “This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.”

    Christian talibans…especially disgusting when it’s mouthed by doctors who are suppose to be anchored in reality, not drenched in archaic vile superstition like catholicism.

  15. Every doctor has to make tough decisions sometimes. That’s why unethical morons shouldn’t become doctors. In this case, a barbaric decision was made, as a medical doctor refused to perform a routine operation that would have easily saved the life of a patient. 

    The rationale behind this lethal decision was obeying a law based on a religion, and it wasn’t even the religion of the patient. A patient was left to die, because of either the doctors chose to interpret the letter of the law in a barbarically unethical way, or the law itself is barbarically unethical. However you look at it, there is a guilty party here, perhaps even two. Either the doctors are to blame, or the Republic of Ireland, or both.

    I think both, the doctors and Ireland are to blame.

    The Irish law seems to be somewhat ambiguous on this matter, so the doctors could have chosen to consider this abortion a medical necessity. The doctors chose not to. 

    The laws of a civilised, ethical country should not allow any doctor the choice of letting a healthy patient die, as she is begging for the doctor to save her with a simple procedure. Even if the law weren’t clear about this, a civilised, ethical doctor shouldn’t interpret the ambiguous law so that this patient is left to die.

    In such an extreme case that the law demands letting such patients die, an ethical human being either breaks the law or does not practice medicine in such a country. Even in Saudi Arabia doctors refuse when demanded to kill, maim or paralyze people convicted by Sharia courts.

  16. Disgusting, scandalous, appalling, sick, criminal – all words used in comments here (and echoed by myself) to describe this terrible, avoidable loss…

    Those same five words also describe the Catholic Church pretty accurately too…

  17. If you were to remove all the doctors who had made a decisions that have led to the death of a patient in some way either collectively or directly, all the doctors would be off the register. They acted according to guidance of their council, they were not negligent. Another point is they may have not had the hindsight to know the patient would get sepsis and died, in that case I think it would be simple to abort even in Ireland. They definitely new this was risky not aborting but there was still a majority chance no complication would have occurred and the baby would have aborted naturally. I don’t like abortion laws in Ireland but you can’t hold doctors accountable for them, difficult decisions they’ll act according to guidance, they aren’t lawyers, they would go to jail taking the law into their own hands and none of you would help them support whatever difficulties they or their families would be left with once the hysteria goes down
    Obeying orders argument in this case is garbage

  18. Not sure you can make the judgement yourself that ‘there was still a majority chance no complication would have occured’ – unless you are a medical expert yourself, if so I apologise.

    Personally, I feel the option to abort should have been taken, even if the risk to the mother was considered small. The life of a human being is more important than that of an unborn potential human being.

  19. Doctors will follow guidance from their regulatory body, they are not well versed with law. Guidance is usually produced by people who are well versed with law and medicine, it usually well thought out and clear, but it always changes with time. Saudi Arabia has no relevance to this case

  20. Once the pregnancy became non-viable (in this particular manner) wasn’t some kind of dangerous complication inevitable? The uterus was exposed to air, and between the foetus dying and being removed she was going to have septic tissue inside her body.

    How was this not an accident waiting to happen?

  21. This poor woman lost her life needlessly. Absolutely scandalous. At the very least there ought to be an investigation into what exactly happened and whether any disciplinery action need to be brought against the doctors.

  22. Yes, there are times when doctors have to make tough decisions but this was not one of them. This was an easy decision and – assuming the Irish Times report has any accuracy at all – the wrong decision was taken, for religious reasons, reasons grounded in a deeply evil religion, Roman Catholicism.

  23. I don’t think the reason the termination was refused was based on Ireland being a Catholic country. For all intents and purposes, it’s not any more.  Rather it’s because of Catholicism that legislation is not in place to deal properly with such a crisis. 

  24. This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

    This is exactly why every country should have a secular constitution, so that every person should be free from the imposition of other people’s religious zealotry.

  25. IIRC the Irish Medical Council ban abortion outright with the exception of the most extreme of situations (mother on deathbed etc.), so while many are calling for the doctor to be struck off for not carrying out the procedure, the more likely situation is that he would have been struck off if he HAD carried it out.

    I’ve read several accounts of the situation, and (to me anyway) it seems like the doctor was lamenting the situation, that the legislation wasn’t clear, and his hands were tied. Determining the meaning of that brief quote is entirely subjective, so I await the outcome of 3 independent investigations into the matter before judging the doctor and the hospital. In the meantime I have no problem judging the Irish Medical Council, the past and current governments for beating about the bush with this matter, and to an extent the people ourselves, for not pushing this matter further.

    If anything good can come of this, it is that I have never seen the Irish public so united and proactive. Many people are challenging their local representatives, something that is often threatened but seldom done, and hopefully (and unfortunately) this will be the push that is needed to implement the legislation that is 30 years overdue according to our own Supreme Court.

  26. They knew she was in the process of miscarrying. They knew there was no saving the baby. They made a religious decision to wait, not a medical decision. They are either poor excuses for doctors, or Irish law is barbaric.

    Doctors face tough calls all the time, and frequently people die but this is not the case of the doctors making a tough call. There was no medical reason to let the dying fetus rot inside of her. Had she been in any other EU Country except Malta and possibly Poland, she’d be alive. If she had been in the US, she’d be alive. If she had been in India, she’d be alive.

  27. There is masses of bigotry and very restrictive anti-abortion laws in the North and in the Republic of Ireland.

    There was a lot of noise and ballyhoo when the Marie Stopes clinic opened :-

    Marie Stopes abortion clinic: Call for investigation- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-n

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-n
    The first private clinic to offer abortions to women in Northern Ireland is due to open next week.

    The service, run by Marie Stopes, will operate in the centre of Belfast from 18 October.

    It says it will provide terminations within Northern Ireland’s current legal framework – abortions are not illegal but are very strictly controlled.

    An anti-abortion group has called for the clinic to be shut down, but Abortion Rights welcomed its opening.

    Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, is not covered by an Abortion Act.

    Abortions can be carried out only to preserve the life of the mother or if continuing the pregnancy would have other serious, permanent physical or mental health effects.

    There is strict assessment regarding any impact on mental well-being and the woman must consult with two clinicians. 

  28. Richard, 

    The equivalent organisation in Ireland is the Irish Medical Council (IMC). 
    Abortion in Ireland is illegal unless the life of the woman is under threat. 
    However, there is serious legal ambiguity about this. 
    Twice the people of Ireland have voted via referendum for clear legislation to allow for legal abortion when a woman’s life is under threat – including the threat of suicide. 
    The ballots were held in 1992 following the high-profile ‘X Case’ and again in 2002. 
    But, cowardice has meant that every Government since 1992 has failed to legislate. 
    Earlier this year a Bill introduced by the opposition to legislate for legal abortion in accordance with the referendums was defeated by the Government parties for political reasons. 

    A consultant gynaecologist tonight gave his view on this on the ‘Vincent Browne’ programme. 
    Although the full facts of the case are yet to be established, he explained that there are cases where a woman presents with what appears to be a miscarriage but the baby has been carried to full term. 
    Therefore, he said, the doctors in this case were in a very difficult position.
    He said that it would be almost impossible for a doctor to establish if the woman’s life was “in danger” in this case and as such whether an abortion was legal. 
    The baby’s heart was still beating when the woman requested the abortion and it isn’t clear whether an abortion would have saved her. 

    What a disgrace. My view is that the “Ireland is a Catholic country” line may have been uttered in  exasperation rather than by way of instruction. 
    The Church still opposes abortion under any circumstances and is vocal about it.

    Luke

  29. I am amazed that I continue to be shock by this sort of thing.  It’s not just nonsense, it’s a tragedy.  That a 21st century medical establishment could still allow its practices to be informed by such iron-age bunk is a travesty.

  30. Twice the people of Ireland have voted via referendum for clear legislation to allow for legal abortion when a woman’s life is under threat – including the threat of suicide.

    They haven’t ‘voted for legislation’; they rejected amendments to the Constitution. The result of these rejections was that the judgement of the Supreme Court (in the X case) retained its primacy with regard to the legality of abortion, and it is on this basis that successive governments were urged to legislate. 

  31. Is there any medical reason why the mother couldn’t have had a C-section early on when there was still a fetal heartbeat?  Some people on a Catholic website I monitor suggest that such would have satisfied the requirements of the RCC relative to the fetus while also preserving the life of Savita.  Are C-sections not possible after dilation begins, for instance?  

  32. The fetus was only at 17 weeks, i.e. non-viable so a c-section would have been a direct abortion. At that stage the danger to the mother was less clear as well. At the moment, constitutionally abortion in that circumstance would be ok, but legally it wouldn’t have as the legislation has been waiting 20 years to be changed.

  33. Thanks for responding.  Again, according to the Catholics discussing this, a C-section — even on a presumably non-viable fetus — would not be considered a direct abortion as there would be no direct attempt to terminate it, but rather to preserve it, as well as the mother’s life.  As with the case of ectopic pregnancies, the RCC permits removal of the fallopian tube even if the non-survival of the embryo is assured because the intent of the procedure is to correct a life-threatening medical condition and not to terminate a pregnancy.   As those Catholics see it, as long as the doctors didn’t intentionally dismember the fetus during the C-section, then its death would also be seen as an unintended consequence and not  a direct abortion.   The culpability for actions in these cases seems to reside in the intention apparently.

    Upon re-reading, I see your point. If the law didn’t regard Savita’s condition as necessarily life-threatening then a C-section at 17 weeks would be disallowed.

  34. uert1,
    Simply put, you are wrong. The doctors were given a choice, and the choice they made was so horribly wrong there is no ethical excuse. These doctors are responsible for life and death situations, and while not experts in law, an essential part of their medical expertise is to have some reasonable grasp of the medical laws under which they operate.

    Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother. There is no doubt this was such a case. While irresponsibly ambiguous, the Irish law would have allowed the termination of this pregnancy. 

    The doctors are guilty, however you look at it. Not recognizing the situation as life-threatening would be malpractice. Succeeding to diagnose the situation correctly but failing to perform the necessary abortion would be barbarically unethical. So the doctor and the hospital were either criminally incompetent or made a criminally unethical choice to let the mother die.

    Some routine medical facts: 
    http://drjengunter.wordpress.c

  35. To clarify that point, the Government was required to legislate following the decision of the Supreme Court in the ‘X Case’.
    The court ruled that ‘X’ had a constitutional right to abortion. However, this right was not clearly defined in law.
    The Government response was to propose changes to the constitution (in 1992 and 2002) to take away a woman’s right to abortion in Ireland if there was a threat of suicide. The 2002 amendment also proposed sanctions for doctors who aid abortion including up to 12 years in prison.
    A rejection of the proposals was the same thing as support for the current obligation on the Government to legislate. 
    The Government aren’t being “urged” to legislate – they are legally required to legislate as set out by the Supreme Court.
    This was affirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in the 2010 case A,B and C vs Ireland.

  36. Sorry, but you’re mistaken.

    There is no obligation to legislate for the judgement of the SC in the X case. That judgement can remain in place indefinitely.

    The rejections of the amendments to the Constitution were not “the same thing” as an implicit instruction to legislate since different groups of voters rejected them for different reasons, i.e. some felt the amendment was too “pro-life”; some felt it wasn’t ” pro-life” enough.

    The govt. is not obliged by the European Court to legislate; it is obliged to clarify the legal situation.

  37.  

    RJMoore

    The govt. is not obliged by the European Court to legislate; it is obliged to clarify the legal situation.

    Do you have some proposal of an alternative way for government to clarify the legal situation, without legislating for clearer laws?

  38. I too believe that the blame for this is with physicians. I heard that a member of staff told the family when abortion was mentioned that the reply was something like ‘this is a catholic country’. To me that sounds like a refrain and an inappropriate response given the denomination of the affected. The whole thing stinks.

    Edit: Poorly phrased when I said I blamed the doctors. What I meant to get accross is That I dont blame this on the actual legislation or the fact that abortion uninhibited is not legalised. So I blame the process , procedure , politics or people involved.

  39. The govt. could just say that the judgement of the SC stands and that it has no plans to introduce legislation. In fact, the larger of the parties in govt., Fine Gael, said that it had no plans to legislate, during the campaign of the last general election.

    I doubt that will happen now though.

  40. Sorry for late reply was in transit
    I’m sorry but I’m not in agreement with your website (which is not accredited in anyway) and they are not routine medical facts. This woman was very unlucky to develop sepsis from her miscarriage, it is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Another point to make is that you are taking it for granted that an abortion would have saved her life, this is not true, she  quite likely would have still died even with the abortion, her sepsis killed her in days. Miscarriages are usually observed, they abort naturally most of the time. Even when the fetus is dead they may still observe (some practitioners may abort at this point though) , if it is retained they remove it. This link is from merck just to give you info how they deal with miscarriage http://www.merckmanuals.com/pr… Septic abortions are rare, in the US they account for 4% of deaths while in pregnancy, most deaths in pregnancy are related to hypertension and pulmonary embolism (couldn’t find data in Ireland, but it’ll be similar) Pregnancy-related mortality surveillance–United States, 1991–1999.
    Chang J, Elam-Evans LD, Berg CJ, Herndon J, Flowers L, Seed KA, Syverson CJ.
    Source
    Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, USA.
    I don’t agree this was a clearly simple and easy choice, and going after the junior doctors is not ethical, they are not trained to carry out abortions or listen to a fetal heartbeat, and they usually will not make major decisions. It was probably a junior doctor that started her on antibiotics. I am not simply “wrong” about this, for a start I cannot be sure what happened (because I was not there), best is to reserve judgement and not strike off people simply because of hysteria (this is addressed to Prof. Dawkins as well). Mob mentality and thinking is not civilised won’t you agree?

  41. I was of the idea that Ireland is a very developed country and all that. I didnt know this country  was not ‘ scientifically’ developed. It is a result of irrational thinking. And well if she was not an Irish citizen as the report suggests, the Indian Government can definitely take it up as a very serious issue with its Irish counterpart.
    I definitely dont want to spend a honeymoon in Ireland.

  42. As an Irishman, I must respectfully contest your claim that we are not a ‘scientifically’ developed country.  I feel that modern day Ireland is still getting painted with that very tiresome stereotypical brush that we are all drunks, brawlers and attend church on Sunday, which is simply not the case.
     
    I know of very few who are religious and those who are don’t follow the bible verbatim or the dictates of the vatican.  We just have a very black past when it comes to catholicism and the vatican that we are still trying to purge but the politicians are just too cowardly and the small number of ‘holy’ warriors supported by Ratzinger and his army is making it hard.

    So please don’t think of my country and most of its people as religious fools for which we are not.

  43.  It is important to avoid prejudices of any kind. It is also unrealistic to generalize.  I worked with/for Irish scientists, who were quite liberal or not very religious.

    I do not believe in anything without proper evidence.  Thus, claiming that an entire nation is fool is clearly based on ignorance.

    I support you on this.

  44. I think you’re being contrary for the sake of it. The SC has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion if her life is at risk, but there is no law to define when her life is at risk. It’s not a matter of opinion – that is a defect in Irish law.  
    Therefore, the Government can’t “just say that the judgement of the SC stands” (what does that even mean in this context? Of course it stands). 
    There were two referendums to try and resolve the legal defect. The Irish people made their choice and it was in favour of legislation allowing abortion. 
     

  45. @RJMoore
    The govt. could just say that the judgement of the SC stands and that it has no plans to introduce legislation. In fact, the larger of the parties in govt., Fine Gael, said that it had no plans to legislate, during the campaign of the last general election.

     

    So, how does doing nothing clarify the legal issues they have been told by to supreme court to clarify?
    - Or provide and alternative to legislation, as I requested here? – http://richarddawkins.net/news

  46. The SC has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion if her life is at risk, but there is no law to define when her life is at risk.

    Yes. At the moment the threat of suicide is grounds for an abortion, and they imposed no time- limit.

    Therefore, the Government can’t “just say that the judgement of the SC stands” (what does that even mean in this context? Of course it stands)

    Which part don’t you get? It can say, in response to the ruling by the European Court, that the ruling by the SC in the X case stands as the primary piece of law dealing with abortion in Ireland and that it has no plans to do change this; in other words, it doesn’t have to legislate. 

       

    The Irish people made their choice and it was in favour of legislation allowing abortion

    No. Some Irish people rejected the amendments because they were considered too “pro-choice”. A rejection of an amendment doesn’t necessarily mean that legislation has to follow….although I’d be very surprised if the Govt. doesn’t grasp the nettle now.

  47. The problem is that there is no consensus among the political parties on how best to resolve the problem, nor is there one among voters. It’s easy to talk about legislating; passing laws is the problem.

  48. Worth bearing in mind that the doctor who made this decision was not at risk of being struck off but at risk of going to prison for life

     58. Every Woman, being with Child, who, with Intent to procure her own Miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any Poison or other noxious Thing, or shall unlawfully use any Instrument or other Means whatsoever with the like Intent, and whosoever, with Intent to procure the Miscarriage of any Woman, whether she be or be not with Child, shall unlawfully administer to her or cause to be taken by her any Poison or other noxious Thing, or shall unlawfully use any Instrument or other Means whatsoever with the like Intent, shall be guilty of [an offence], and being convicted thereof shall be liable, …, to [imprisonment] for Life …. [8] 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A

    Michael

  49. I agree about Poland;  I don’t know about Malta but in Poland there is currently  a drive in the Sejm (Parliament) to even stop in vitro procedures!  The discussion was originally started and given great impetus by some priests recently; now the politicians on the right are for doctors to cease the procedures – it’s madness, ignorance – fuelled, Catholic madness! Ireland and Poland – Catholic West meets Catholic East, equally mad in their adherence to dogma.  

  50. I’m curious to know if the baby was a girl or a boy. 

    Some East Indians, along with Chinese, practice sex selection and they try to abort pregnancy if its a girl. This might be an attempt gone bad.

  51. Richard and other readers. This is a website based on reason right? 
    So firstly can we stop with somewhat bigoted/ judgemental comments regarding the medical staff involved.
    While I am not saying they are not culpable of medical negligence what I am saying is that there is an investigation underway and we do not know all the full facts yet. So before we deem they should be ‘struck off’, ‘fired’ or ‘incarcerated it needs to be established thro proper process what happened. Otherwise we run the risk of turning this into a kind of yobbish witch hunt and in the process end up pointing the finger at the wrong people. For instance we do not know the context in which the statement ‘this is a catholic country’ was made.
    Innocent until proven guilty right? 

    Legislation permitting medical staff to perform an abortion in Ireland where the mother’s life is in danger is NOT clarified in Ireland. In Feb 2012 an article appeared in the Irish times calling for legal clarification and  goes into the detail as to why http://www.irishtimes.com/news

    I particularly draw your attention to the following paragraph 
    “Legislation is needed to clarify the liability of medical personnel involved in abortions here; to determine up to what point in a pregnancy abortion is permissible; and to determine how and where legal abortions are to be carried out. It may also be necessary to define the meaning of the word “unborn” – ie, at what stage does human life begin”.

    I would also emphasise that in the supreme court ruling in 1992 ( re then X case), whereby the court ruled in favour of abortion where the mothers life is at risk, the supreme court judge criticised explicitly the Irish government for not giving legislative clarity for medical practitioners. THAT WAS 20 YEARS AGO and successive governments have failed to do so.
    Muddying the waters, government further copped out and the issue has gone to referendum twice. The following two abortion referendums  in 1992, 2002 were rejected because of what was proposed. They were rejected by both the pro abortion and anti abortion camps because they felt it did not go far enough ( in the case of pro abortion because the proposal was rejecting suicide as one of the risk factors for the mother) or it went too far (in the case of the anti abortion ‘prolife’ camp). It is interesting to note that the 2002 referendum was practically split down the middle, with the no side marginally winning.

    The Irish republic is a relatively young country. Dominance by Britain was replaced by dominance from the catholic church in 1940s. We are a country that is emerging/ transforming from a hitherto patriarchal society. The issue with abortion is a reflection of the conflicts in irish society that is a result of this transformation. 
    The government need to ‘man up’ and legislate for abortion  and the Irish people need to get off the fence we have been sitting on. Better still ( in my opinion) the issue should be handed over to the medical council altogether and leave it as a decision between the ‘patient’ ( woman) and her medical practitioner and leave religion and politics out of it.

    The situation as is leaves pregnant women and medical staff in an impossible situation.

    Savita’s husband Praveen Halappanavar is returning to Ireland because he wants justice for his wife via pushing for legislative change so no other woman will go through what Savita went through. I applaud his humanity.

    So ( cold thinker) before you call the medical staff ‘unethical morons’ it might do you no harm to do a bit of research and equip yourself with some facts first. This is seemingly a website for foundation for reason and science. I am not religious but it often bemuses me that often atheists display the same judgemental attributes that they condemn religious people for. That’s human nature for you I guess.

  52. Drip, drip, drip. That is the sound of the credibility of religious morality running out.

    As cases like this appear, then so they will fuel the questioning of religious authority. Once upon a time cases like these would not be reported – for surely this must have happened before to other women. But now they are in the public domain and are feeding our species’ natural moral outrage. This is the wedge which will drive people away from doctrine.

    This of course, will do nothing for poor Praveen and the rest of Savita’s friends and family. My sympathy lies with you all and if you should chose to fight, you will find support here.

  53. What we have here is a country in unofficially ruled by a  religion which is so sick and twisted that it will ensure that a mother would have to die because her feotus had a pulse and therefore could not be terminated and instead of  just the termination the mother lost her life and her partner left bereft.  This pile of garbage that calls itself a religion will undoubtedly say that it did the right thing utterly oblivious to the grief caused.

  54. I don’t fully understand the stance the doctors took, whatever the outdated and cruel laws on abortion might say.

    I only know a little bit of biology, but if the cervix was open, amniotic fluid was leaking out and the feotus was only 17 weeks I’m guessing there was no way to stop the miscarriage or they would have done so and the baby could not have survived outside of the womb. Therefore wasn’t it only a matter of time before the inevitable happened and it died anyway? So how could removing it be an abortion rather than just clinically treating a miscarriage to save the mothers life?

    If the doctors hands were really tied by legislation I hope the husband sues the RC church and the government for murder instead. They are the truly guilty ones if that is the case.

  55. sadly, its not a conspiracy theory. Its a fact. That’s why there are health care (ultrasound)  facilities around the world who will not tell you the gender of the baby just for this sole purpose of sex selection. It is practiced in India and China and people from those country are doing it outside too.

    “…women have come to the centre for help dealing with violence against them for resisting to abort a female fetus. ” – Amandeep Kaur, chief operating officer of the Punjabi Community Health Services

    Here’s an example:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/

  56.  sadly, its not a conspiracy theory. Its a fact.

    Applied to this couple it’s a conspiracy theory based on nothing but their ethnicity.    Pretty offensive given the tragic situation.  Have you got any other evidence ?  

    Michael

  57.  I don’t fully understand the stance the doctors took, whatever the outdated and cruel laws on abortion might say.

    From what I have read unless the foetus is dead or the mother is in immediate  danger of dying then performing the abortion could quite likely lead to life imprisonment for the doctors involved.

     
    They are the truly guilty ones if that is the case. 

    Indeed.

    Michael

  58.  i feel sorry for both of them but what I’m saying is, this will create a loophole wherein other people can and will exploit.

     

    Sorry I don’t understand. What is the loophole ? 

    Michael

  59. Michael it is such a stupid law and I can see that. Even so, even taking that into full consideration I still can’t see the full logic of the decision. Why those doctors couldn’t have still pleaded the old catholic sanctity of life and carried out the termination straight away on the grounds that she had already started to miscarry, her life or health were in danger even if it weren’t immediate danger and the feotus had NO chance of living anyway.

    It wasn’t even a save her or  save the feotus situation. It was both dying or just one!

    It seems very clear cut to me – they gave an already doomed feotus a few more hours of a heartbeat in the womb (so not even really a few more hours of actual sentient life to say goodbye to people) knowing that was all they were giving it. Fine except to do that they had to then sacrifice the real life of a sentient woman who probably had years of real life ahead of her. Somebodys real wife and daughter and friend and sister.

    Hence instead of losing one life they lost two. The first inevitable and beyond anyones control the second being a sacrificial murder in my opinion.

    In terms of the sanctity of life crap they could have stated that the feotus was as good as dead in all realististic respects. They could have stated that miscarriage is different to abortion as well – in that abortion is a choice miscarriage inevitable and (I guess) it was a probably wanted baby anyway that they would have saved if at all possible.

    I really don’t buy the fact that an educated  dentist and educated engineer would be into the sons are more important than daughters stuff. Not least because had they really wanted a termination I suspect they had more than sufficient funds to go to England and have one legally and safely. Like thousands of poorer Irish women manage to do every year.

    Even by their own primitive laws this case is a disgrace and doesn’t add up. The only good that will come out of it is a long overdue change in their primitive anti women laws.

    I do wonder if those anti abortion people sanctioning this murder would consent to the sacrificial murder of a mother if say one of her organs could save the life of her toddler or teenager. Because that would be similar situation morally to this wouldn’t it? Only in a way almost less evil than this murder because it would be a less pointless waste of a human life. Could they answer that question?

  60.  Michael it is such a stupid law and I can see that. Even so, even taking that into full consideration I still can’t see the full logic of the decision. 

    But they logic of their decision is they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in jail.  The law being stupid doesn’t mean you won’t end up feeling the full force of it if you break it.  In any case in Ireland the law is clearly not regarded as stupid by those in power.  It would be those same people who would be trying you.

    Most of us thankfully live in countries with more civilised abortion laws than Ireland but compare it to our euthanasia laws.  Try finding a dignified death for a  terminally ill and suffering loved one. Or try helping them yourself and you run the same risk as Irish doctors. 

    I really don’t buy the fact that an educated dentist and educated engineer would be into the sons are more important than daughters stuff. Not least because had they really wanted a termination I suspect they had more than sufficient funds to go to England and have one legally and safely. Like thousands of poorer Irish women manage to do every year.

    I agree completely.

    Michael

  61. An interesting item from  Butterflies and Wheels about a symposium in Dublin in September this year:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news

     AN INTERNATIONAL symposium on maternal healthcare in Dublin at the weekend has concluded that abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother.

    Eamon O’Dwyer, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway and a conference organiser, said its outcome would provide “clarity and confirmation” to doctors and legislators dealing with these issues.

    Prof O’Dwyer and a panel of speakers also formally agreed a “Dublin declaration” on maternal healthcare. It stated: “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.

    “We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.

    “We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

    In a statement, Prof O’Dwyer also said no treatment should ever be withheld from a woman if she needed it to save her life, even if that treatment resulted in the loss of life of her unborn child.

    Notice that the O’Dwyer is from the same hospital that Savita died in. Pity they didn’t clarify the bit at the end to do deal with the situation where the medical treatment being withheld is an abortion.

    Michael

    EDIT: O’Dwyer is reported as saying the pregnancy should have been terminated:

    http://www.independent.ie/nati

  62. I heard about this story on the radio, as you can imagine, the husband is devastated.  :(

    @rdfrs-ef5dc5221d28b1332ef662db7427bcc8:disqus  wake up! There was no sex selection going on. She should have had a right to terminate the pregnancy whether or not her life was in danger.

  63. Questionaing cat I agree with you about google 415. It is an insult and totally illogical to suggest this was the result of some kind of botched home attempt for reasons of sex selection. She was a dentist, her husband an engineer – well paid and educated. Had they really wanted a termination for any reason at all do you really think that they wouldn’t have had sufficient funds to fly to nearby England and obtain one safely and legally in a hospital? Do you honestly think a medically qualified woman would risk a botch job home abortion?

  64. Mark123
    Had they really wanted a termination
    for any reason at all do you really think that they wouldn’t have had sufficient funds to fly to nearby England and obtain one safely and legally in a hospital?

    Do you seriously think that a woman who had started to miscarry would sit in an airport waiting area, or that an airline would accept someone in need of urgent medical attention, on to a flight?

    [Edit] This comment would only apply if they were deciding at the last minute. Your suggestion would be reasonable if the choice was made earlier.

  65. Catholic apologists are trying to make out that this poor woman would have died anyway, even if she had had an abortion. I’d be interested to know whether anyone familiar with the medical issues finds this (bit.ly/Xoky6P) convincing. Even if it is, the fact remains that her husband was either lying or she was told by the consultant that she could not legally have the abortion she requested. So, even if the official report concludes that she would have died anyway, Irish law needs to be changed and she was horribly treated by the hospital because of Catholic influence.

  66. Alan4Discussion I was actually agreeing to QuestioningKats comments in responding to google145s suggestion  that the miscarriage was a result of a botched attempt at a home abortion for reasons of sex selection. Not that the woman should have sought an abortion in the middle of a miscarriage!

    Sorry if you misunderstood. There is no way she could have gone to England or even Dublin once she’d started to miscarry.

    I was merely pointing out that had google145 been correct the couple would have been in a position to obtain a legal safe termination elsewhere much earlier in the pregnancy. So my opinion was that google145 was talking rubbish and that I suspect the baby was a wanted baby that was tragically miscarrying. 

    I also wonder if google154s comments and use of racial stereotypes reflected things being said by the anti abortion people in Ireland to try and justify the murder of this woman?

  67.  

    Mark123
      Sorry if you misunderstood. There is no way she could have gone to England or even Dublin once she’d started to miscarry.

    I added the edit to clarify when I looked back over the thread and seemed to have misunderstood your point.
    So sorry about that.

  68. This is one of the consequences of the ignorance and arrogance of the religious and the faithful who claim to know more about everything than we know about anything….  This could have been your mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend, neighbor or acquaintance, the fact is that she was none of the above and I still feel a sense of loss….  PRAISE THE LORD….!  PRAISE THE LORD….!  PRAISE THE MOTHERFUCKING LORD….!

  69. Richard Dawkins, if, as this catholic lady is claiming, waiting is the normal procedure in such cases, wouldn’t that be what they told her husband?

    Wouldn’t they have said something along the lines of it is very sad you’re losing your baby but it these cases it is safest to just let nature take its course and interfere as little as possible?

    Wouldn’t that also be a more normal medical response to a request for a termination, (ie it is far safer/better/usual protocol to just wait), than there is still a heartbeat and this is a ‘catholic country’ or however it was phrased? Isn’t the phrase this is a catholic country an unusual medical protocol term compared with it is safer not to interfere? Even if the woman weren’t at risk, surely leaving her in distress listening to her baby die was inhumane?

    It is unlikely her husband is lying about what was said. He is an Indian expat with no prior axe to grind about the Irish laws on abortion, no real experience of how it has affected people nor any bitter experiences of catholicism. He has said in interviews he has no hard feelings towards the Irish people and is grateful for the support the ordinary ones are showing.

    He is also torn apart with grief. In interviews on Irish tv he has said it was a wanted baby and they had both been heartbroken when told they were losing it. He has said they both asked were there any ways they could save the baby at all, including things like stitches in the cervix. They were clearly told no, the baby was being lost and there was nothing that could be done. It looks like it is hard for him to hold it together as a few weeks ago he was a husband and about to be a father.

    In those circumstances have thought it very unlikely that he would make up responses like this is a catholic country after requesting a termination!

    The other odd thing is the fact that the feotus was removed when the heartbeat stopped. If waiting WERE best and safest wouldn’t they have continued to wait afterwards for things to progress normally?

    It is almost impossible to find out what the best procedure is as most of the medical articles seem to refer to cases where there is a chance the pregnancy can be saved and therefore deal with trying to prevent labour.

    The husband wants an independent inquiry, and is upset that Galway and the irish HSE are involved. His solicitor has said some important parts of the medical notes are missing.  Both have said they will not co operate with the HSE. Both seem to have little or no faith in the Irish government. The prevailing feeling of a lot of the irish people seems to reflect their  mistrust as well. So I wouldn’t put too much store by what that catholic woman is saying until all is known. 

  70. No it wouldn’t and it wouldn’t  and it wouldn’t…

    A young woman is dead.  Mother’s life has priority to dying fetus.  Mother’s life is more important than any unborn fetus.

    If it happened to my wife, and a religious  physician would tell me that  fetus’s survival is more important than my wife’s life, I would change hospital in our marvellous Canada, and would sue the physician.  I would want  major Canadian newspapers/media write/talk about this.  I would want the rest of civilized world know about this kind of savagery.

    With due respect: I disagree.

    I do not accept any claims based on any religion.  I do not accept any claims without solid evidence.  I do not accept any religious decide for my family’s health and treatment.  I want only and only science take care of our health.  Not Bible/Quran/Torah.

  71. No Kidding Man I’m not sure what you are saying or if you understood what I’d said?.

    I had read the link that Richard Dawkins had posted to a catholic woman who was claiming that though it was sad the doctors had probably followed standard medical procedures that would be followed anywhere in those circumstances -regardless of abortion laws. Followed for purely medical reasons. Those were her claims not mine. Those were the claims Richard Dawkins was querying.

    So I was hypothesising that if her claims were correct than THAT is what the doctors would have said! If she were correct the doctors would have clearly said ‘in these cases the safest course is to wait’ . There would have been no mention at all of the fact that Ireland is a catholic country because there would have been no need at all to mention it.

    But in this particular case the doctors actually said ‘this is a catholic country’. That seriously weakens the catholic apologist womans claim that the course of action taken by the doctors was the  one that would have been taken by all experienced doctors regardless of religion as the best course (as she is claiming) and strengthens the opinon that the woman was sacrificed for reasons of religious bigotry.

    I was also pointing out that the husband was highly unlikely to be lying. You can watch him being interviewed by Irish tv. He is telling the truth and the Irish people seem to be in agreement that the Irish health services will try and cover things up and the system corrupt.

    Does that make it clearer that I personally think the words used suggest the woman was sacrificed for religious reasons and not as a tragic failure of best/usual medical practice in such cases as some catholics are now claiming. The growing claim of the catholic apologists does seem to be that abortion laws had nothing to do with the decisions taken but as far as I can see they had everything to do with the decisions taken despite the risks to the mothers life.

    Making it murder of an innocent woman.

  72. Don’t know if this is a more qualified response to the catholic apologists claim that the doctors were following normal medical procedures and therefore an abortion would have made no difference to the outcome or what they did would not have been different had Ireland not had its abortion laws. Its from this weeks New Scientist and is an interview with a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology called Lisa Harris.

    “What are your thoughts on Savita Halappanavar who died of septicaemia on 28 October in Ireland, after allegedly being refused an abortion?

    “My heart goes out to her family. As a physician, I have many questions about the clinical details of her case. It is unclear to me whether the serious threat that her pregnancy and infection posed went unrecognised, or if her doctors recognised the danger but felt that as long as the fetus had a heartbeat, their hands were tied by Ireland’s restrictive abortion law. Regrettably, it appears to be the latter.”

    “What are the implications for clinical practice if the fetal heartbeat is present?

    “Savita’s death might have been prevented had her doctors not waited for the fetal heart to stop before performing a uterine evacuation. In the US, doctors at catholic affiliated hospitals may also be force – if the fetal heartbeat is present – to delay appropriate care of the women who are miscarrying, according to research by Lori Freedman of the University of California.

    “Not long ago I cared for a patient having a septic abortion (in which the uterus is infected). She was initially taken to a religiously affiliated hospital that couldn’t provide the emergency labour induction she needed because the fetus, as in Savita’s case, was still alive.

    “She was transferred to my institution, delivered the fetus, and ultimately did well. However, I wondered if the doctors who initially saw her felt morally compromised by the policy of their hospital”

    It would appear from that the catholic apologists are being less than open and honest in their assessments of things and abortion

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