Apr 08 2013

Sorry, no can do

The Galway Independent gives a very detailed account of Praveen Halappanavar’s testimony to the inquest today.

On Sunday, they were told the fetus would not survive.

Mr Halappanavar said that he could hear his wife crying and, on returning to the room, was told that there had been some cervical dilation and the foetus would not survive. He said that they had asked if the baby could be saved by putting in stitches but were told that this was not possible.

But waiting around for no reason, giving infection a chance to set in – that was possible.


On Monday morning, Mr Halappanavar said that Savita was taken for an ultrasound and started to cry when she saw the monitor. He claims that he and his wife then had a conversation with the consultant, Dr Katherine Astbury, in which Savita said she couldn’t take waiting for her baby to die and requested a termination. He said he was then told that, as the foetus was still alive, the pregnancy could not be terminated.

Mr Halappanavar said his wife asked if there was anything that could be done to speed up the labour process and Dr Astbury agreed to check and come back to them to discuss later.

The next day

He went on to claim that he and Savita had another conversation with Dr Astbury, in which they were told that the pregnancy could not be terminated, as Ireland was a Catholic country. He said that Savita argued that she was of Hindu faith and was not an Irish citizen and should therefore should be allowed to proceed with a termination but Dr Astbury said “sorry” and left the room.

And on it went, pointlessly, until she was dead.


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  1. 1

    Simply sickening. I’m sure the “pro-life” group chalk it up as a victory. After all, no one was actively killed, they only watched her die.
    Dreadful as it is, I’m not surprised. I remember a case way back, when the Irish government did all they could to stop the parents of a pregnant 13-year-old rape victim leaving the country, as it was assumed they would go to England or France to let the girl have an abortion.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    I already have some creepy person on Twitter telling me S.H. didn’t die because she was denied an abortion.

  3. 3
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    How the fuck does a doctor stand by and do nothing when hir patient is begging for help?!

    Doesn’t that, I dunno, violate their professional code of ethics, or something?

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Sometimes there’s no help they can give. Sometimes there is but it would be medically bad.

    But in this case? The fetus was going to die. They told the Halappanavars that themselves. So how the doctor could refuse to do what the patient begged for in this case is beyond me.

  5. 5
    Harald Hanche-Olsen

    WMDKitty – I think the technical term is “Hippocratic oath”.

  6. 6

    @Harald Hanche-Olsen
    Hippocratic Oath did contain the phrase, as translated “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.”
    Although that’s followed by…
    “I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work (translates to surgeons, apparently).”
    So I guess Hippocrates would probably be fine with surgical abortion, just not chemical abortion.
    To his credit, it may be that at the time, abortion has such a high failure rate (chemically, at least) that it exceeds maternal mortality rate of giving birth.

  7. 7

    @5 Harald Hanche-Olsen: You mean the one that contains this?

    I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.

    (Emphasis mine. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath ) I think that they would be better off without it.

  8. 8

    WMDKitty — Survivor (#3)

    How the fuck does a doctor stand by and do nothing when hir patient is begging for help?!

    Easy. He adhered to the Hypocritical Oath: first, do no harm to your career.

  9. 9

    In the extremely partial defense of the doctors involved, if they had performed the abortion they would have been at risk of anything from being fired to being arrested. It was against the law. Personally, I don’t think that it’s ethical to even practice in a situation where the law puts you at odds with the patients’ good and if you must practice in that situation that you are obligated to do everything possible for the patient any way, up to and including lying about the situation (i.e. recording “no fetal heart tones” and performing the abortion if there’s no other way to save the patient), but they were technically keeping on the right side of the law. A law the IMO does not want to change.

  10. 10

    The original Hippocratic Oath contained a clause, “I shall give no woman a pessary for an abortion.” Anti-choicers love to trot that one out as Proof of the Wisdom of the Ancients, conveniently ignoring that the medicine practiced by Hippocrates also believed the uterus was an organ that floated around the female body and made them crazy. Yeah, we really should emulate the way the ancient fucking Greeks practiced medicine; I’m sure that will save more lives!

    Most modern doctors swear a version of the Declaration of Geneva, a 1948 re-write which doesn’t mention abortion at all, just upholds the “utmost respect for human life”.

  11. 11

    The original Hippocratic oath also contained a clause forbidding physicians from doing surgery. There’s no particular reason to believe that abortion was forbidden as immoral rather than simply not within the scope of practice of physicians (as opposed to surgeons.)

  12. 12
    Harald Hanche-Olsen

    Well, I have learned some new things about the Hippocratic oath; thank you all. But at least, I notice that the oath, as taken in modern times, is “heavily modified” relative to the original. I also notice this part:

    I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

    (My emphasis.) Those are pretty strong words.

  1. 13
    Ophelia Benson: ‘Does God Hate Women’ ‘Savita’ Eschaton 2012 Can | Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin Goldenbridgeinmate39

    [...] Sorry, no can do » Butterflies and Wheels - Freethought Blogs [...]

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