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Savita treatment 'barbaric, horrendous and inhuman'

PRAVEEN Halappanavar has described his wife's treatment in University Hospital Galway as "horrendous, barbaric and inhuman" after a jury unanimously found that her death was by medical misadventure.

The widower of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused a termination in the hospital as she miscarried, has said he will take Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights.

The jury of six men and five women sitting at County Hall in Galway also endorsed nine recommendations put to them by coroner Ciaran MacLoughlin after eight days of hearings.

But Praveen said his battle for truth and accountability was only beginning, adding: "I still haven't got all the answers that I was expecting to hear." He admitted he is even more angry with his wife's treatment now than before the inquest began.

"I've been waiting for six months and I'm still struggling to get answers," he said. "I have to give answers to her family. I have a huge responsibility." Asked how he is bearing up, he said: "I'm just pretending to be okay. It's been a tough journey.

"It's not easy to fight against the system." Admitting that a variety of Continued on Page 14 factors contributed to her death, he said that he was still "optimistic" of changes to Ireland's laws on abortion.

"You lose your rights basically when you are pregnant here I think," he said.

In hindsight, he said he wished he was more assertive with hospital staff.

"I should have shouted and screamed and asked for a second opinion but we were in our own shock," he told RTE's 'Prime Time'.

"We thought it would be over in a few hours and we would be home. We had started thinking about the next pregnancy."

The HSE says it has already implemented many recommendations in the wake of Savita's death, and would carry out all those put forward by the coroner.

These included new procedures for the early detection of sepsis, the blood poisoning which killed the 31-year-old dentist at University Hospital Galway on October 28 last year.

However the verdict was qualified by the coroner, under questioning from Eugene Gleeson, counsel for the HSE.

"The verdict of misadventure does not mean that the system failures or deficiencies contributed to her death," said Dr MacLoughlin.

Inquests in Ireland cannot point the finger of blame, and Praveen was also keen to stress that after the conclusion of the case.

"To be frank I knew this would be the outcome, I saw it all," he said.

"Savita did not benefit in any way going to hospital until the Wednesday afternoon but that was too late.

"Until then the care she received was in no way different to staying at home. Medicine is about preventing the natural development of a disease and look what they did.

"We were always kept in the dark. If Savita had known here life was at risk she would have jumped out of bed and gone to a different hospital."

Speaking on what would have been the couple's fifth wedding anniversary, he said his wife's last days were "horrendous".

He said patients in similar circumstances who felt they were being kept in the dark should "keep asking questions, and ask for a second opinion".

Mrs Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when admitted to University Hospital Galway on Sunday, October 21 with an inevitable miscarriage.

She died from multiple organ failure from septic shock and E-coli a week later, four days after she delivered a dead foetus.

During the inquest, obstetrician Katherine Astbury appeared in the witness box and said she could not have terminated on the Monday or Tuesday of that week.

Questions remain over why the signs of Savita's fatal infection were not detected in the early hours of the Wednesday morning.

In his closing remarks at the end of the inquest, Dr MacLoughlin told Mr Halappanavar that the "whole of Ireland" had followed the case and he offered his condolences on behalf of the nation.

"You will always be watched over and protected by the shadow of Savita," the Coroner told him.

Praveen's solicitor Gerard O'Donnell told the Irish Independent that Savita had been "deprived of the basic right to life".

He said his client's version of events on the final days of her life had been "completely vindicated and proven to be correct".

The Irish Independent understands they will now take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that Savita was denied the right to medical attention.

"This was a fundamental breach of her human rights," said Mr O'Donnell.

They will also argue that Praveen's human rights were also breached when medical staff failed to keep him informed of the care his wife was being given.

The failure of the Oireachtas to enact new inquest legislation – which would allow Coroner's to apportion blame at hearings – will form part of the legal action.

Irish Independent