Jury Rules Poor Medical Care Caused Death of Savita Halappanavar
A jury in Western Ireland ruled Friday that Savita Halappanavar, the 31-year-old Indian woman who gained international headlines in October after she was refused an abortion, died due to "medical misadventure" at University Hospital Galway.
The six-man, five-woman jury voted unanimously and endorsed all nine recommendations of coroner Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin, which included the Irish Medical Council providing a clear definition of when, legally, doctors may perform abortions to save a mother's life in the country.
Other recommendations of the verdict, which were decided after a two week coroner's inquest, included taking mandatory blood samples from the mother to ensure her safety and educating hospital personnel on sepsis management, according to BBC News.
The sepsis management recommendation includes creating a protocol for sepsis management which involves early warning charts installed in each facility.
Dr. MacLoughlin also recommended that hospitals reserve a certain amount of time for precautions to be met, and proper communication between the patient's family and physicians be upheld; that nurses' and doctors' notes be kept separately; and that a rule be put in place which prevents the notes from being changed at a later date to avoid confusion.
Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian-born dentist, visited the University Hospital Galway in Ireland when she was 17 weeks pregnant because she was suffering a miscarriage on Oct. 21, 2012.
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Doctors at the hospital told Halappanavar that the fetus was not viable, but they could not perform an abortion because it still had a heartbeat.
Halappanavar died several days later of septicemia, or blood poisoning, which ultimately led to organ failure.
The young woman's death resulted in a massive public outcry which branched from the U.S. to India to the U.K., with many demanding that Ireland change its abortion laws.
Abortion in Ireland is illegal unless it is a necessary intervention to save the life of the mother, although in the past, the definition of when abortion is absolutely necessary has remained unclear.
Halappanavar's family argued that the woman's life may have been saved had she received an abortion.
"In an attempt to save a 4-month-old fetus they killed my 30-year-old daughter. How is that fair you tell me?" A. Mahadevi, Halappanavar's mother, told several media outlets shortly after her daughter's death in October.
The family also argued that Ireland's strict laws on abortion are due to its large Catholic population, but Halappanavar was Hindu, and the country should adjust its laws to cater to all religions, instead of just Christianity.
"How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians," the young woman's mother told media outlets.
In addition to his recommendations, Dr. MacLoughlin also gave his sympathies to the Halappanavar family, citing the immense loyalty Savita's husband, Praveen Halappanavar, showed in the last hours of his wife's life.
In an interview with The Irish Times following Friday's verdict of death by medical misadventure, Praveen described the hospital his wife died in in October as "horrendous, barbaric and inhumane."
"Medicine is all about preventing the natural history of the disease and improving the patient's life and health and look what they did. She was just left there to die. We were always kept in the dark," Praveen told the local newspaper.
"If Savita would have known her life was at risk she would have jumped off the bed, straight to a different hospital. But we were never told," the grieving husband added.
Praveen said that he is still considering pursuing further legal action to determine if his wife's right to life had been violated.