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Three weeks on, HSE probe has still to begin

IT'S almost three weeks since the death of Savita Halappanavar -- but the HSE is only now appointing an independent external expert to probe it.

It has led to major questions about why this was not done sooner, and why it happened only after her grieving husband Praveen told the world what happened to his wife.

The HSE National Incident Management Team will be joined by the independent expert in investigating the death of Ms Halappanavar, a dentist, who was 17 weeks pregnant.

The HSE has confirmed that it is still finalising the investigation's terms of reference, as well as who will carry it out.

The external expert will come from the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.

Sinead Kennedy, of the 'Action On X' group, said she thought the death "would have been treated with more urgency".

"I hope that Savita's death will be treated with more urgency and seriousness because we have a legal vacuum that needs to be sorted out to protect all pregnant women."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that Health Minister James Reilly should decide a course of action on receipt of the HSE investigation report.

Meanwhile, former Master of Holles Street, Dr Peter Boylan, of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said Irish doctors can deliver if a woman is at risk.


"I don't know the details of the Halappanavar case, so it would be incorrect for me to comment about that one in particular.

"But there are circumstances where a woman may have developed an infection, and in those circumstances we would deliver her if there is risk."

However, he said if there isn't an infection, or no signs of infection, then "we are prevented from doing a termination of pregnancy by the law".

"What we would like to happen is that we can practise medicine in a safe environment legally, because the current situation is like a Sword of Damocles hanging over us, and if we do something with a good intention, but it turns out to be illegal, the consequences are extremely serious for medical practitioners."

He said that he believed that legislation was "probably the way to go".

"Whenever anything like this happens in medicine, and in the practice of obstetrics, it undermines the confidence of women in the care that they are receiving, but I think they can be assured that in the overwhelming majority of cases, they receive the very highest standards of care, when they access care in this country," he said.

He said that there "are circumstances where our hands are tied, and those are the areas where we have great difficulty, and we would seek assistance from the State.

"We need to start acting like an adult state and get on with it."