Thursday 29 September 2016

Savita Halappanavar case settled for six figures

Agreement closes case on death of pregnant dentist from septic shock

Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30

DAMAGES: Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning while suffering a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital in 2012
DAMAGES: Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning while suffering a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital in 2012

The State will pay a six-figure sum to the widower of Savita Halappanavar, who sued for damages over his wife's death three years ago, according to informed sources.

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) reached an out-of-court settlement with Praveen Halappanavar on Thursday.

Informed sources said the settlement is a six-figure sum and could "approach €1m".

The agreement brings an end to the protracted legal actions and inquiries launched into Ms Halappanavar's death from blood poisoning, while she was suffering a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital in 2012.

Her death shocked Ireland and led to a change in Ireland's abortion laws, and the HSE later apologised for her death.

Praveen Halappanavar's personal injury action against the HSE and the consultant, Dr Katherine Astbury, the consultant obstetrician responsible for Ms Halappanavar's care, was due to open in the High Court last week.

Mr Halappanavar, who now lives in the US, was expected to return to Ireland to testify. He was not in the High Court on Thursday when the judge was told that the claim had been settled.

In 2013, the HSE issued an "unreserved apology" for Ms Halappanavar's death, after a report found serious failings in her care.

Praveen Halappanavar's claim against the HSE listed more than 30 grounds of alleged negligence and that his wife's constitutional right to life was breached. The case was managed by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the HSE and Dr Astbury.

Ms Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, was admitted to Galway University Hospital when she was 17 weeks pregnant. She was suffering a miscarriage, but a developing infection went undetected. She was repeatedly refused a termination because the foetal heartbeat was present. Days later, she went into septic shock and died.

An inquest into her death found that she died of medical misadventure. The inquest heard that Ms Halappanavar asked for a termination on several occasions but was told an abortion could not be carried out under Irish law as her life did not appear to be in danger at that time.

In his personal injury action, Mr Halappanavar alleged that the HSE paid too much emphasis on the presence of the foetal heartbeat and ignored his wife's right to life and her right to appropriate medical treatment. Her death caused great suffering, mental distress and hurt to her family. Mr Halappanavar sought aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages from the HSE.

The HSE is also reported to have made an out-of-court settlement with Ms Halappanavar's parents, Akkamahadevi and Andanappa Yalagi, and her two older brothers.

A later investigation by the health watchdog, Hiqa, criticised her medical team and said there were "many missed opportunities" which, if acted on, could have changed the outcome for Ms Halappanavar.

Galway University Hospital has said that nine of the 30 medical staff who treated Savita were disciplined. The remaining 21 staff had no case to answer. Some staff received counselling, mentoring and training, others received written warnings.

It emerged last year that the Medical Council will take no action against Dr Katherine Astbury.

The Lord Mayor of Galway, Padraig Conneely, lodged a complaint about Dr Astbury, but the Medical Council informed him that no action would be taken.

Sunday Independent

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