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Galway doctors removed from Savita death inquiry team


Three doctors from Galway University Hospital are to be removed from the inquiry team investigating the death of Savita Halappanavar.

The u-turn by Health Minister Dr James Reilly comes in the wake of objections from the woman's husband, Praveen Halappanavar.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed the three consultants would be replaced and he hoped it would be seen as "independent".

"The three consultants who were named will not now be part of the investigation," he said.

Ealier it emerged that her husband was blocking a HSE inquiry into her death by refusing to release her medical records.

Mr Halappanavar, whose wife died after suffering a miscarriage and being refused an abortion, has called for an independent public inquiry into her death and says he has no faith in the HSE process.

He will not consent to have Savita's records examined by the investigation team, his lawyer said.

His solicitor Gerard O'Donnell announced the widower had no faith in the state's Health Service Executive (HSE), which appointed a team to review the case.

"I just don't know how the HSE will conduct an inquiry without his consent," said Mr O'Donnell.

"They will have to look at her records and we haven't given any consent to Savita's records being looked at."

Mr Halappanavar criticised the HSE probe, launched yesterday, because the team includes three employees of Galway University Hospital where his 31-year-old wife died on October 28.

Her husband claimed she was refused an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

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A seven-strong team chosen by the HSE has begun its review and will spend the next three days conducting intensive interviews with medics involved in Mrs Halappanavar's care.

It is headed by internationally recognised Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's University of London.

The team had also planned to examine the dead woman's medical records, along with case notes and local, national and international hospital guidelines and policies.

But Galway-based solicitor Mr O'Donnell said his client will not consent to her records being shared because he does not believe the HSE probe will get to the truth of her death.

"Any inquiry conducted by the HSE does not meet with his approval. He has no faith in the HSE," the solicitor said.

Details of the investigative team's plans were announced yesterday, sparking anger among Mrs Halappanavar's family.

Her husband objected to the appointment of three members of the team who all work at the Galway hospital - Professor John Morrison, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, Brian Harte, consultant in anaesthetics, and Catherine Fleming, consultant in infectious diseases.

Chairman of the HSE investigation team Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran insisted that the Galway consultants had no part in the care of Mrs Halappanavar.

The expert panel had hoped to discuss the tragedy with Mr Halappanavar as part of its investigation.

The HSE insisted it would work on his terms and when he is available, and claimed it would share its findings immediately with the family.

But his solicitor's latest claims suggest this will not happen.

No overall timeframe has been set for the completion of the report, which will be returned to HSE national director of quality and patient safety Philip Crowley.

Other members of the independent review team are: Cora McCaughan, HSE national incident management team; Cathriona Molloy, service user advocate, Patient Focus; and Geraldine Keohane, director of midwifery, Cork University Hospital.

Meanwhile, opposition party Sinn Fein will table a motion in the Dail tonight calling for an immediate change to abortion laws.

It will urge the Government to legislate on the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X Case - allowing women an abortion when their lives are in danger.

It is understood the Government will produce a counter-motion to ensure Sinn Fein is voted down, but a number of backbenchers from junior coalition party Labour have suggested the counter-motion will have to be sufficiently progressive to get their vote.

TDs will debate the issue and are expected to vote tomorrow.

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