Ireland's health watchdog to probe Savitha's death



London: Ireland's health watchdog will begin a probe into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar who died after being refused an abortion, two days after the government said it will legalise abortions when the mother's life is at risk.

Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), a government-funded healthcare agency in Ireland will complete and publish its investigation into the death of 31-year-old Savita as soon as possible, spokesman of the agency announced yesterday.

The authority had begun its preparatory work for the investigation this week, as soon as the members of the investigating team had been approved, he said.

A consultant midwife, consultant obstetrician and two microbiologists will be among those on the eleven-person team, one further person is to be appointed and details of this will be published shortly, he said.

According to a report in The Irish Times, the investigating team has been charged to look into the safety of HSE services to patients, including pregnant women, "at risk of deterioration and as reflected in the care and treatment provided to Savita Halappanavar".

The authority has said it will publish the findings of its inquiry.

Savita died at Galway University Hospital on October 28th, having presented on October 21st with severe backpain. She was 17-weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying.

Her husband Praveen said she asked repeatedly for a termination of the pregnancy but was refused and was told the foetal heartbeat was still present and "this is a Catholic country". She contracted septicaemia and died on October 28.

The HIQA investigation is being chaired by Phelim Quinn, Director of Regulation with the authority. There are four other Hiqa members on the team, as well as six independent investigators.

Dr Paul Fogarty, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Ulster Hospital in Belfast, where he has worked since 1993.

Dr Nuala Lucas, consultant anaesthetist at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, England is also chair of the Group of Obstetrics Anaesthetists in London.

Denise Butler, a midwife consultant with the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland; Dr Bharet Patel, consultant medical microbiologist with the British Health Protection Agency and Dr Robert Cunney, consultant microbiologist at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, will also investigate.

A lay person, Loretta Evans, described as a 'patient safety champion' will also be on the team.

The Hiqa spokeswoman said the investigation would be completed, a report submitted to the board and approved, shared with Minister for Health James Reilly and then published. This would all be completed "as soon as possible", she said.

PTI