21 November 2012
Ireland: Inquiry begins into death of Savita Halappanavar
Professor Sabarantnam Arulkumaran, a London-based expert on obstetrics and gynaecology is to head the Irish health service inquiry.
Prof Arulkumaran, from St George’s, University of London, will chair the investigation into how Savita Halappanavar died at University Hospital Galway, the Guardian reports.
Halappanavar’s husband’s legal team has been in contact with the Health Service Executive (HSE) inquiry team. Praveen Halappanavar alleges that his wife, who was gravely ill, asked repeatedly for her 17-week pregnancy to be terminated. She was refused the termination and told: “This is a Catholic country,” according to her husband.
Arulkumaran said that over the next three days his team would review the case notes, look at guidelines and interview people. The HSE said the investigation would be completed within an “expeditious timeframe”. The draft terms of reference will be published after being shared with the Halappanavar family.
The death of Halappanavar on 28 October has been the subject of national and international attention. On 17 November thousands marched through the streets of central Dublin demanding a change to Ireland’s abortion laws that would allow for terminations where a pregnant woman’s life is threatened.
The inquiry will aim to determine the facts of Halappanavar’s death, identify contributory factors and make recommendations to try to prevent a similar incident occurring again.
Ireland’s minister for health, James Reilly, said having the inquiry done properly and completely was key to getting the whole truth that Halappanavar’s family would want. He said Arulkumaran was extremely well qualified. Three months was a realistic timeframe for the inquiry to be completed but he said if it could be done quicker it would be all to the good.
In 2005 the then UK health secretary, John Reid, appointed Arulkumaran to lead a review into the safety and quality of maternity services at Northwick Park hospital in London after 10 mothers died there in the preceding three years, nine of them between 2002 and 2004.
The appointment of his maternity action team was part of a series of special measures the hospital had to undertake in order to restore confidence in its childbirth services. In 2007 Arulkumaran became the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which represents the UK’s specialist maternity doctors.
Separately, a book of condolence has been opened by the mayor of Galway in sympathy with Praveen Halappanavar, the couple’s family and friends and with the Indian community in Galway.
London-based expert to lead Irish abortion inquiry. Guardian, 19 November 2012
Comment: Savita Halappanavar’s death, and Ireland’s law. By Ruth Fletcher. Abortion Review,26 November 2012
Ireland: Savita Halappanavar tragedy sparks public protests. Abortion Review, 19 November 2012