Sunday 19 November 2017

Savita's widower set to launch multiple lawsuits

Savita Halappanavar
Savita Halappanavar
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE husband of Savita Halappanavar will meet his lawyers this week to give the go-ahead to a range of legal actions over his wife's death.

Praveen Halappanavar will consider his options on his return to Galway this week after a break. He is also due to meet Health Minister Dr James Reilly, who could be a defendant in future actions he plans to take against the State.

The State is facing multiple lawsuits over Savita's death. The 31-year-old dentist died of septicaemia in hospital after she miscarried her 17-week-old foetus. Her requests for a termination were denied because her doctor didn't believe her life was at risk.

Mr Halappanavar is now planning to sue the State in the European Court of Human Rights and is also considering a separate Constitutional action in Ireland, on the grounds that Savita was denied the termination that could have saved her life.

A medical negligence action against University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) is also on the cards, which is likely to result in a substantial payout. Both the HSE and UCHG have apologised for her death.

Mr Halappanavar has also been advised on making a complaint to the Medical Council about Dr Katherine Astbury, the consultant responsible for Savita, and to the nursing board about the midwives who cared for her in her final days.

His solicitor, Gerard O'Donnell, said: "He has been given all the advice, so it is a matter for him to let us know. We are going to take this one step at a time.

"Our immediate focus now is to meet with the minister and, at the same time, to sit down with a senior and junior counsel and consider our options in terms of the action we are going to take."

He added that a Constitutional action would be "a hugely important case, particularly in light of the abortion legislation being proposed at the moment."

Mr Halappanavar's case has been bolstered by a coroner's inquest that identified lapses, deficiencies and systems failures in Savita's treatment.

A clinical review of her care by the HSE, released a fortnight ago, highlighted numerous failures by clinical staff to properly monitor and assess her condition as infection took hold.

The chairman of the inquiry team said she could still be alive if she had been

John Waters, Page 27

allowed a termination. A third report by the health watchdog, Hiqa, has not yet been published.

Dr Reilly, forwarded the HSE's clinical review to the Medical Council and the nursing board after it was published a fortnight ago.

The nursing board has already taken steps to identify the nursing and midwifery staff who cared for Savita during her hospital stay. Mr O'Donnell said they will be raising the matter with the minister.

"Is he asking the Medical Council whether or not this is appropriate treatment and should they look into it? I don't know," he said.

"The Medical Council has its own fitness-to-practise committee . . . Obviously the fitness-to-practise committee is entitled to act on its own if there are issues of concern regarding patients."

An inquiry by its fitness-to- practise committee would mean that Dr Astbury's treatment of Savita would be scrutinised by a panel of doctors, and would most likely be held in public.

Mr Halappanavar, who has described his wife's treatment in UCHG as "horrendous, barbaric and inhuman" is also expected to raise demands from the family for a public inquiry into her death at his meeting with Dr Reilly.

"That is still on the agenda, but we have to see what form of action we ourselves are going to take," said Mr O'Donnell.''

Irish Independent

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