According to an inquest on Friday 26 April, “medical misadventure” caused the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar. She died on 28 October 2012 after she was denied an emergency abortion in a Galway hospital.
Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she died. The inquest found that the specific cause of death was severe septic shock, e-coli in the bloodstream and a miscarriage.
Her death caused an international outcry and shone the spotlight on Ireland’s notoriously strict abortion laws, when it emerged that she was told she could not have a termination “because Ireland is a Catholic country”.
The jury had heard evidence from leading obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan, that it was highly likely Savita Halappanavar would still be alive had she been given a termination when it was requested by her and her husband, Praveen Halappanavar.
Speaking after the inquest, her husband said: “It’s horrendous, barbaric and inhumane the way Savita was treated.”
The key recommendation by the coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin is that the Irish Medical Council should state exactly when doctors should intervene to save the life of a mother, “to remove doubt and fear from the doctor and reassure the public”.
This has put pressure on the government to clear up ambiguities in the law. Intensive discussions took place over the weekend between the governing parties, Fine Gael and Labour, over the text of new legislation.
Fine Gael is publicly split on the matter of terminations in the case of suicidal intent, despite this being a constitutional right following the “X case” judgement in 1992.
The Cabinet is expected to agree the Heads of the Protection of Maternal Life Bill 2013, and it is hoped that the legislation will be tabled before the Dáil summer recess.