independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Abortion case European Court move

Savita Halappanava, who was 17 weeks pregnant when she died after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia (The Irish Times/PA)

Demands for a public inquiry into the death of a pregnant Indian dentist in Ireland after she miscarried are to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

Praveen Halappanavar has instructed lawyers to bring a case to Strasbourg over the death of his wife Savita in Galway University Hospital in October.

A legal team is expected to meet early next week to decide on their approach.

Mr Halappanavar's solicitor Gerard O'Donnell said the case would be taken under article two of the European Convention of Human Rights.

"The difficulty is that we are seeking a public inquiry and the European court will of course wonder have we exhausted remedies here in Ireland first," he said.

It is understood that if the court agrees to hear arguments, it would be the first case of its kind against the Irish Government.

Mr Halappanavar has reiterated his refusal to co-operate with an internal clinical inquiry set up by the Health Service Executive (HSE) into his wife's death. He will also not work with an independent watchdog inquiry by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). An inquest will be held in Galway.

"Him being a witness to everything that happened to his wife in hospital would be important for any report," Mr O'Donnell said. Under article two a person is entitled to an inquiry that is independent, effective, prompt and open to public scrutiny. They are usually carried out when there is a state connection to a death, as in a hospital or in custody.

Ms Halappanavar, 31, died on October 28, 17 weeks into her pregnancy. She miscarried and subsequently suffered septicaemia, and her husband claims that doctors refused to carry out an abortion because a foetal heartbeat was present. He says they were told Ireland "is a Catholic country".

The controversy has reignited divisive debates on abortion in Ireland with the Government committed to reforming a limited ban in certain circumstances where there is a risk to the mother's life.

Press Association

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