News Editorial

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Authorities must learn from Savita's tragic death

Published 14/06/2013 | 17:00

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IT HAS been a very tough eight months since the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar at Galway University Hospital. The tragic loss to her husband Praveen, and the rest of her relatives, was compounded by the struggle to establish how and why she died.

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We must also remember the trauma and upset for the staff at the hospital who had set out to provide the best care they could in all the circumstances. The authorities made some errors in their early responses to this situation when it first came to light last November. But they moved on to commission an inquiry and report by a top-flight team.

Now that we have this report, all the government and medical authorities must carefully study its recommendations and act upon them as quickly as is possible.

The study, led by world-renowned obstetrician Dr Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, recommends the prompt introduction of a 'Maternity Early Warning Scoring Chart' system for patients with pregnancy complications.

It calls for mandatory training and education of all clinical staff. This must focus on the early recognition, monitoring and management of infection, sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock.

The report further calls on the HSE to develop and implement national guidelines on infection during pregnancy and the management of inevitable miscarriages. Immediate psychological support must be on hand for such cases.

The legal context in which clinical professional judgment can be exercised, in the best medical welfare interests of patients, must also be addressed. TDs and senators must consider legal and clinical guidelines as well as changes to the law and any changes to the Irish Constitution that might be required.

Dr Arulkumaran said the lack of legal clarity played a significant contribution in Savita's death. But he was unable to say at such short notice whether the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill published yesterday would address all of these issues. It is very clear that the controversy surrounding Ms Halappanavar's death expedited planned government action on this most sensitive and difficult issue. The lessons to be drawn from this tragic loss must now be applied.

Irish Independent

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