Savita giving me strength to fight for justice, says husband



London: The husband of an Indian dentist, who died after being refused an abortion in Ireland, has credited his departed wife for the strength to continue his fight for truth.

Savita Halappanavar died in hospital on October 28 last year from suspected septicaemia.

"It's not easy to sit there in the court to see all the proceedings. I believe I'm getting that strength from somewhere to look forward. I suppose I believe it is coming from Savita. She was that type of a person, "The Irish Times quoted Praveen Halappanavar (31) as saying.

The preliminary hearing of inquest has begun. "She was always there for me so I'm getting the strength from that," he added.

He said that doctors at Galway University Hospital refused to carry out an abortion 17 weeks into her pregnancy because a foetal heartbeat was present.

Praveen said they were told Ireland "is a Catholic country."

At the inquest into Savita's death yesterday, the Coroner for Galway city, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, promised her husband that her inquest will be transparent and open to public scrutiny.

He offered his condolences to Savita's husband and vowed to conduct the hearing with solemn respect, dignity and courtesy to him and to the memory of his "beloved Savita".

Dr MacLoughlin said: "It is my duty as coroner to ensure that the inquiry shall be independent, effective and prompt - that the procedures are open, transparent and accountable and are subject to public scrutiny."

He also added that her next of kin would be involved to an appropriate extent.

Dr MacLoughlin urged all sides involved in the hearing to respect the functions of the court after medical records stating that Savita had requested an abortion were leaked last night.

The family's legal team had previously said that medical notes they had seen did not record the request for a termination.

The hearing, which is expected to last more than a week, will begin on April 8 at Galway Courthouse.

Dr MacLoughlin was told 48 statements have already been furnished by health chiefs and gardai, with six more to be ready within a week.

However, John O'Donnell, junior counsel for Praveen, raised concerns about two more witnesses who have not, and may not, be able to assist the inquest due to personal difficulties.

Speaking about his wife's final moments, last month, Praveen said: "In the night, at around one o'clock, the nurse came running, as I was standing outside ICU. She just told me to be brave, and she took me near Savita, and she said: 'Will you be ok to be there, living her last minutes? 'I said: 'Yes, I want to'. I was holding her hand, they were trying to pump her heart, there was a big team around. The doctor just told me they lost her."

Praveen, who works as an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, came to Ireland from India with his wife four years ago to start a new life together.

She had a job in Westport, Co Mayo and the pair lived in Galway city.

They were so excited about the expected birth of their first child, which was due on March 20, that they had an early baby shower in recent weeks when Mrs Halappanavar’s parents were visiting.

But their world began to fall apart, when Savita's back pain worsened and she was forced to seek medical help at University Hospital Galway on the morning of Sunday October 21.

After routine tests the young mother-to-be was told everything was fine and the couple were sent home. But within an hour of returning, Savita was positive something was wrong after using the bathroom.

After similar tests again showed up nothing unusual, she asked to be seen by a doctor.

Following a more in-depth examination, she was told around noon that there had been a cervical dilation and the medics would not be able to save the baby.

The pair were told it would all be over in four to five hours, and then the dentist could go home.

But she remained in agony and two days later her health began to sharply deteriorate.

"On Tuesday night, things really started getting worse... All of a sudden Savita started feeling cold, she started shivering terribly," said Praveen.

Savita was taken into the hospital's high dependency unit before being transferred to intensive care.

By Friday morning, Praveen was asked by a midwife if he had told wife's family, who were travelling back to India, about the severity of her condition.

She had not wanted to worry them until they returned home.

"I just told them she is still in the hospital and that she is fine, she is doing well. I only told them about the miscarriage," said the husband, speaking to RTE from Belgaum, in Karnataka, in south west India.

"But (the midwife) said you have to tell them that she is critically ill. She said it is better that her parents and all her family know about it."

In the early hours of Sunday, October 28, Savita died.

Praveen said he believed his wife, a Hindu, would have survived if she had been given an abortion.

It is believed one of the areas the hospital's Risk Review Group will investigate is the experience of the consultant who oversaw the case.

"Savita was in agony," he added.

"She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. "When the consultant came on the ward rounds, 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'."

He said he had gone from being 'on top of the world' to having his world torn apart in just days.

PTI