London: Shell-shocked and distressed Praveen Halappanavar, whose wife died in Ireland after doctors allegedly refused to perform an abortion stating "this is a Catholic country", said his wife would have been alive today if a termination had been given.
Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman, died from blood poisoning. Notably, abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Irish authorities have launched a probe into the death of Savita, a dentist, who was 17 weeks pregnant and suffered a miscarriage and septicaemia at University Hospital Galway last month, The Irish Times reported on Wednesday.
Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, said that she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated.
"Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby," he told The Irish Times in a telephone interview from Belgaum, southwest India. "When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked if they could not save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy? The consultant said: 'As long as there is a foetal heartbeat, we can't do anything.'
"Again on Tuesday morning ... the consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do," Praveen Halappanavar said.
He said his wife vomited repeatedly and collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn't terminate the foetus because its heart was still beating.
The foetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Savita was placed under sedation in intensive care with blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again, her husband said. By Saturday, her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working. She was pronounced dead early Sunday, October 28.
An autopsy carried out two days later found she died of septicaemia "documented ante-mortem" and E.Coli ESBL.
“We begged them for a D&C but yet she was just left there... It makes no sense. I have lost her now what can I do? I am helpless,” Praveen was quoted as saying by The Sun.
A hospital spokesperson confirmed the Health Service Executive had begun an investigation while the hospital had also initiated an internal investigation.
Savita’s death has sparked the debate over legalising abortion in Ireland.
Savita mother A Mahadevi told a news agency that in order to save a yet-to-be-born child, “they killed my 31-year-old daughter”.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita, who was 17 weeks pregnant. Her case highlighted the legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems can find themselves in predominantly Catholic Ireland.
Ireland's Constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalised for situations when the woman's life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.
The vast bulk of Irish women wanting abortions, an estimated 4,000 per year, simply travel next door to England, where abortion has been legal on demand since 1967. But that option is difficult, if not impossible, for women in failing health.
The couple had settled in 2008 in Galway, where Praveen Halappanavar works as an engineer at the medical devices manufacturer Boston Scientific. His wife was qualified as a dentist but had taken time off for her pregnancy. Her parents in India had just visited them in Galway and left the day before her hospitalisation.
Praveen Halappanavar said he took his wife's remains back to India for a Hindu funeral and cremation on November 03. News of the circumstances that led to her death emerged on Tuesday in Galway after the Indian community cancelled the city's annual Diwali festival. Savita Halappanavar had been one of the festival's main organisers.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012, 10:17