Monday 11 December 2017

Drafting of abortion guidelines for medical staff gets under way

Eilish O'Regan and Caroline Crawford

Discussions have begun on the drafting of guidelines for specialists and other doctors who will be affected by the Government's proposed abortion legislation.

It comes as Praveen Halappanavar has indicated he will request a meeting with Health Minister James Reilly upon his return to the country.

The widower was only made aware of the publication of the inquiry report into his wife Savita's death hours after its release on Thursday. He is currently in India and is not due back in the country for 10 days.

The Department of Health said it had started a consultation process with the relevant professional bodies for psychiatrists, obstetricians and GPs on the development of guidelines arising out of the legislation.

It follows comments earlier this week by Prof Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, the chairman of the inquiry into the death of Savita, that guidelines are needed for doctors to advise them on how soon they can carry out a termination where a pregnant woman has a condition like severe infection which could lead to sudden deterioration.

This would reduce the chances of different practices by obstetricians which could lead to high risks for pregnant women, he added.

Meanwhile, the HSE said it had now rolled out an early warning score to all maternity units. This is a list of symptoms which doctors and nurses would look out for to indicate if a woman was deteriorating.

The HSE's national director of quality and patient safety Dr Philip Crowley said recommendations of the Savita report, particularly around the management of sepsis, need to be implemented.

He described her case of severe sepsis and death after suffering septic shock as a "rare occurrence".

However, he added that the treatment of sepsis was becoming "far more important and critical". This meant that more emphasis needed to be placed on training staff on its recognition and management.

Mr Halappanavar's solicitor Gerard O'Donnell said his client Praveen was "quite upset and tired by the whole thing. He has told his story so many times now and it's taking it's toll. But he's coming out of his fight for the reports and the inquest and he's got a bit more time to grieve.

"Nonetheless he's determined to press ahead with this."

Mr O'Donnell said this would not be the end of Mr Halappanavar's fight for justice, adding that they were now looking at what legal avenues were open to them.

"We will keep going. We will have to discuss with counsel our options and whether a case to Europe is appropriate. Praveen is looking to get to the truth of what happened and he hasn't got that yet," he added.

Irish Independent

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