The inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar ended on Friday and Praveen Halappanavar still doesn’t have answers. He told us what he thinks of the whole thing.
The medical care she received was in no way different to staying home. Medicine is all about preventing the natural history of the disease, and improving patients’ lives and health. And look what they did. She was just left there to die. We were never – we were always kept in the dark. If Savita had known her life was at risk she would have jumped off the bed and seeked a different hospital. She was, we were never told, and it’s horrendous, it’s barbaric and inhuman the way Savita was treated in that hospital.
It’s very striking. She might as well have stayed home. They went to the hospital, naturally thinking that they would find there what you’re supposed to get at hospitals – treatment. They didn’t get that, and they weren’t even told they weren’t getting that. She was just left there to die. The medical staff went through insulting mocking motions of treating her – they stuck her in a bed, they took her vital signs, there were medical people around – but they didn’t do what they needed to do to prevent her from dying. They refused to interfere with the natural course of the disease. They decided, without telling much less asking the patient and her husband, that the risk wasn’t big enough for them to do anything about it. It is, indeed, horrendous and barbaric and inhuman.
The Independent reports:
The inquest had heard evidence from an expert witness that the only thing that could have saved Savita was a termination within a day or two of being admitted to hospital, and by the time it was lawful to perform a termination, she was beyond saving.
“An extremely rare condition had been dealt with as best as possible by hospital staff on duty,” he said, referring to the blood poisoning caused by E.coli that ravaged through her with frightening speed, causing her death by multi-organ failure.
Barrister Eileen Barrington said there was “no basis in fact or law” to call for the accountability of her client, Dr Katherine Astbury, the consultant responsible for Savita’s care while in hospital.
Everyone had done their best. No one could be reproached, as was frequently pointed out an inquest is not allowed to point fingers; that is for the civil and criminal courts.
No, everyone had not done their best. Maybe that’s not their fault, maybe it’s the fault of the law, but they did not do their best. Their best would have been a prompt termination, and they didn’t do that. It’s a lie to call what they did “their best.” That’s the whole point. It’s very sub-optimal, nonstandard, inadequate, bad treatment to refuse to terminate a protracted miscarriage. Do not ever call that “best.”
It cites the inquest’s expert witness, Peter Boylan, former Master of the National Maternity Hospital.
Mr Boylan made no criticism of Dr Astbury, Savita’s consultant. According to his assessment, the biggest factor affecting her treatment of Savita was beyond her control. In his medical report, Mr Boylan said: “The real problem was the inability to terminate the pregnancy, prior to Ms Halappanavar developing a real and substantial risk of death. By that time, it was effectively too late to save her life.”
Had this been done on the Monday or Tuesday, he said it was highly likely that Savita would be alive. But Dr Astbury, like other doctors, was hampered by the law, which prohibits termination unless there is a real risk to the mother’s life.
The disturbing (to put it feebly) thing about that is that outside Ireland the risk is considered real and substantial. That’s why the standard of care with PRM is prompt termination: because of the risk of infection. The Irish law is deeply, disturbingly fucked up.