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Savita's husband to sue her doctor for negligence


Dr Katherine Astbury

Dr Katherine Astbury

Savita Halappanavar who died at University Hospital Galway

Savita Halappanavar who died at University Hospital Galway

Savita's husband Praveen

Savita's husband Praveen


Dr Katherine Astbury

THE doctor who treated Savita Halappanavar at a Galway hospital has been named as a co-defendant in an action being taken by her husband Praveen for negligence.

Dr Katherine Astbury and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are being sued by Mr Halappanavar following the death of his wife Savita at University Hospital Galway on October 28 last.

In papers lodged with the High Court last week, the personal injury summons states that Ms Halappanavar's constitutional right to life was breached.

It outlines more than 30 issues of alleged negligence which it claims led to her death.

These include a failure to monitor and properly treat the young dentist and a failure to terminate the pregnancy when it became clear that Ms Halappanavar's life was at risk.

"It is a personal injury summons seeking compensation for the loss suffered by Praveen on the death of his wife Savita. She had a constitutional right to life and that constitutional right was breached," said Mr Halappanavar's solicitor, Gerard O'Donnell.

"The papers cover in excess of 30 particulars of neglect separate from the constitutional breach," he said.

The legal papers were separately served on lawyers for the HSE West on Friday afternoon. Mr O'Donnell said the decision to name Dr Astbury as a co-defendant in the case was taken because the HSE Clinical Indemnity Scheme does not name individual doctors.

"The matter is now with them and it all depends on the attitude of the defendant. Because the HSE Clinical Indemnity Scheme does not name individual doctors we took the view that it was important to do so in case any matters arise in the future," he added.

Mr Halappanavar was informed that the papers had been officially filed yesterday. "He's still very upset about everything. It is coming up to the first anniversary and that is very hard for him but he is happy that we are moving forward," explained Mr O'Donnell.

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Mr O'Donnell also said that Mr Halappanavar was still waiting for a meeting with Minister for Health James Reilly. A meeting was originally due to take place three months ago but never happened. He said the minister forwarded papers relating to Savita's case to the Medical Council and the nursing board. "I'd like to know what they are all doing," he said.

Dr Katherine Astbury was Savita's obstetrician at University Hospital Galway. She disputed claims made by Mr Halappanavar during the inquest regarding the number of times his wife asked for a termination of the unviable pregnancy.

It also emerged at the inquest that on the morning of October 24, three days after Savita was admitted to hospital, Dr Astbury had not read the patient's notes, relying on her registrar to do so.

She told the Coroner she had not been told of a change in Savita's condition which pointed to chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the foetal membranes – despite the fact that this had been included in the notes. Had she been aware of the change, she told the inquest, she would have acted immediately to terminate the foetus and treat the source of the infection.

Savita died on Sunday, October 28. In April, an inquest into the 31-year-old's death returned a verdict of medical misadventure. A HSE clinic review into her treatment was published in June. It found there had been inadequate assessment and monitoring of the patient.

It added there had been "a lack of recognition of the gravity of the situation and the increasing risk to the life of the mother" among staff at the Galway hospital.

The HSE has promised to fully implement all the recommendations included in the review into her death. A HIQA report into her treatment is expected to be completed shortly.

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