The jury in the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital following a miscarriage, has given a unanimous verdict of death by “medical misadventure.”
The coroner, Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin, said the verdict did not imply that systemic deficiencies at the hospital contributed to her death but called for new guidelines on when doctors can intervene to save the life of a mother.
Clearer guidelines about the circumstances in which an abortion could be carried out would help doctors take a decision without fearing that they may be breaking the law, he said. The jury endorsed all the nine recommendations made by the coroner to streamline car at Galway University Hospital where Savita was treated.
The verdict came a day after a leading obstetrician told the inquest that Savita would probably be still alive had doctors had agreed to her repeated requests for abortion. Dr. Peter Boylan, clinical director of Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital and a former member of the government’s expert advisory group on abortion, said that Savita was ill enough to justify an abortion at least three days before she died but because of Ireland’s strict abortion laws, doctors were not legally in a position to carry out a termination unless there was a “substantial risk” to her life.
Last week, Ann Maria, the midwife who treated Savita apologised for telling her that she could not have an abortion “because Ireland is a Catholic country.” But she insisted that it was not meant to “offend” the patient.
Savita (31) was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital on October 21 with severe back pain. She was found to be miscarrying, but according to her husband, doctors refused to abort citing Ireland’s strict anti-abortion law. A week later she died of septicaemia and E.coli.