Abortion death: MEA summons Irish Ambassador

India on Friday summoned the Irish Ambassador to convey its "concern and angst" over the untimely and tragic death of an Indian dentist in Ireland and hoped the inquiry which has been instituted by that country would be "independent".

New Delhi: India on Friday summoned the Irish Ambassador to convey its "concern and angst" over the untimely and tragic death of an Indian dentist in Ireland and hoped the inquiry which has been instituted by that country would be "independent".

In his response, the Ambassador assured India that it was Ireland`s desire to provide the fullest cooperation in the follow-up inquiries into the circumstances of Savita Halappanavar`s death.

Madhusudan Ganapathi, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, summoned Irish Ambassador Feilim McLaughlin.

"During his meeting with the Irish Ambassador, Secretary (West) expressed India`s concern and angst in the society about the untimely and tragic death of Halappanavar. He said that we were unhappy that a young life had come to an untimely end," official sources said.

The Secretary also expressed the hope that the inquiry, which has been instituted, would be independent and that the Indian Ambassador in Dublin would be provided with information regarding its progress and outcome.

"The Irish Ambassador assured that it was their desire to provide the fullest cooperation of the Irish side in the follow-up inquiries into the circumstances of the death of Halappanavar. He also indicated that the terms of reference for the inquiry are being framed and would be released shortly," the sources said.

Meanwhile, the matter is also being taken up by Indian Ambassador in Ireland with Irish government.

Halappanavar, 31, died in Ireland due to blood poisoning after doctors allegedly refused to terminate her 17-week pregnancy, telling her that "this is a Catholic country".

Savita`s husband Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, told the Irish media that his wife had asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated.

This was refused, he said, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told "this is a Catholic country".

Meanwhile, India`s ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakravarti today said India`s concern over the death of Savita has been conveyed to the Irish Government with the hope that steps would be taken to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.

The Ambassador told RTE, Ireland`s National Television and Radio broadcaster that the death was a matter of deep regret to the Indian people and that he hoped the inquiry into the events surrounding her death would be conducted quickly but not so fast as to affect the quality of the investigation.

The terms of reference of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE`s) investigation into the death at Galway University Hospital late last month are expected shortly.
Minister for Health James Reilly said the inquiry will be led by HSE director of quality and patient safety Philip Crowley.

An expert in obstetrics and gynaecology from Northern Ireland has been approached to be on the investigating team.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has sought assurances from Galway University Hospital and the HSE that proper standards of safe care were adhered to in the treatment of Savita.

Chakravarti said Savita`s death is being taken with "great seriousness" in India and there was significant anguish, pain and sadness in the Indian community here about the development.

Asked what the episode said about Ireland as a State, Chakravarti said he should not comment as a representative of a foreign government.

He added that the death was an unfortunate incident but that relations between the countries had been "extremely cordial" going back to the foundation of the Republic.

Dr Reilly has so far resisted pressure to commit to the introduction of legislation to clarify the legal situation governing terminations of pregnancy.

He said it would be improper of him to make such a commitment before he considered the report of his expert group on abortion.

He had given the report, which he received this week, a "quick glance" but had not had time to study it properly.

After he had done this, he would bring it to Cabinet.
Pressure on the government to legislate on the circumstances in which terminations of pregnancy can be carried out has been growing in the wake of Savita`s death.

Dr Reilly said the Irish Government owes it to citizens and medical practitioners to clarify the situations in which it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy.

Speaking in Cork, Dr Reilly said there was no "difference of opinion" between himself and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore on the issue and that both of them needed time "to digest" a 70-plus page report by an expert group on abortion.

Gilmore yesterday called for greater "legal clarity" on the issue of abortion after news of the death of Halappenavar.

"I want to (digest the report) and I want to bring it to Government and get the views of my Cabinet colleagues on where to next," Dr Reilly said.

"We do have a duty to the European Court of Justice to give them an update on progress before the end of the month."

Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had failed to provide for abortion in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk.

The decision means Ireland has to legislate but Reilly is facing resistance from within Fine Gael to any liberalisation of the laws on abortion.

Reilly added: "We are very clear on one thing and I am very clear on one thing, we owe it to the citizens of this country and we owe it to the professionals who care for them to give clarity on the law and what is permissible."

The Minister said the terms of reference for an inquiry by the Health and Safety Executive into Halappanavar`s death were close to being finalised and her family would be consulted.

"Before they are fully finalised it would be normal in cases of this seriousness that we would have consultation with the family to seek their views and that we will do," he said.


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