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The lonely court-house vigil of a tragic husband

In Galway court house, Praveen Halappanavar was flanked on all sides by lawyers, hospital staff and media, but he cut a tragically lonely figure.

He stared straight ahead and mostly showed little emotion. At times, he looked angry. And who could blame him? Savita, his 31-year-old dentist wife, was expecting their first baby. When they were told in University College Hospital in Galway that their baby would not survive, they decided not to tell her parents, who were visiting and due to travel back to India. "We were under the impression that everything would be over in a few hours and we would be home," he said. That did not happen.

He said Savita asked for a termination three times but was refused. She wanted it to be over before her parents got back to India and started telling their friends. He claimed that he was present when a consultant refused – saying that Ireland is a Catholic country.

The consultant, Dr Katherine Astbury, denied saying it, although she explained the legal position to Savita. A midwife confirmed she told Savita that it was a Catholic thing. Both the consultant and the midwife said that Praveen wasn't there when these conversations occurred.

During the course of the inquest, it was clear that phrase, "It's a Catholic country", was ringing in Praveen's ears as his wife was dying in intensive care.

His friend, Chalikonda Prasad, said Praveen kept repeating the phrase when he asked him "why they didn't terminate" her pregnancy. His testimony was robustly challenged at various points. He got times wrong and dates mixed up, but the substance of what he had claimed all along has been borne out.

Praveen stayed with her throughout the week. He said he was not told that Savita was in danger until her fifth day in hospital. She was, by then, in intensive care and suffering from septic shock. Hours before she died, he said "a nurse held my hand and told me her organs are not responding".

Last week, he thanked this nurse and the others who cared for Savita at the end, for their kindness.

Irish Independent