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Saturday 19 October 2019

Consultants claim Irish law was not to blame for Savita death

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A GROUP of 11 prominent consultants, who are specialists in a range of areas of medicine, have said Irish law did not prevent the "necessary treatment" of Savita Halappanavar.

They said doctors in University Hospital Galway who cared for Savita could have intervened when her membranes ruptured and found she had an infection.

But the Galway team lacked the proper diagnosis at the time because relevant information was "not noted and acted upon", claimed the doctors.

Savita, who was 17 weeks pregnant and told she would miscarry, died a week after admission to hospital. She had a severe blood infection which progressed to septic shock.

The group is led by Dr John Monaghan, an obstetrician in Portiuncula Hospital in Co Galway known for his pro-life views.

It includes retired specialists of a similar opinion, Professor John Bonnar and Professor Eamon O'Dwyer.

It also includes Dr Stephen Cusack, head of the emergency department in Cork University Hospital, Dr Rory Page, a consultant anaethetist at Cavan General Hospital, and Dr James Clair, a microbiologist at the Mercy Hospital in Cork.

The doctors, in a letter to the Irish Independent, disagreed with the opinion of Dr Peter Boylan, an obstetrician in the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, who appeared as an expert witness at the recent inquest into Savita's death.

The group said the recent inquest "has raised important issues about hospital infection in obstetrics".

They added that "much of the public attention appears to have been directed at the expert opinion of Dr Peter Boylan, who suggested that Irish law prevented necessary treatment to save Ms Halappanavar's life. We would suggest that this is as much a personal view as an expert one".


They added that it is "impossible for Dr Boylan, or for any doctor, to predict with certainty the clinical course and outcome in the case of Savita Halappanavar where sepsis arose from the virulent and multi drug-resistant organism E.coli ESBL".

The group said "the facts as produced at the inquest show this tragic case to be primarily about the management of sepsis, and Dr Boylan's opinion on the effect of Irish law did not appear to be shared by the coroner, or the jury, of the inquest."

They added that obstetric sepsis is "unfortunately on the increase and is now the leading cause of maternal death reported in the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths.

"Additionally there are many well-documented fatalities from sepsis in women following termination of pregnancy. To concentrate on the legal position regarding abortion in the light of such a case as that in Galway does not assist our services to pregnant women," they said.

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