In a rare intervention, the Irish President Michael D. Higgins on Thursday came out in support of the demand of Savita Halappanavar’s family for an independent inquiry into her death saying that any investigation must meet ``the needs of the family’’.
"My wish, frankly, is that there be some form of investigation which meets the needs of the concerned public and meets the needs of the family and meets the need of the state," he said.
Mr Higgins said he had been moved by the ``enormous response’’ to the ``tragic death of wonderful Savita’’ and hoped that lessons would be learned from her case to ensure that women in Ireland felt safe .
"But look, at this particular time, as President of Ireland, my sympathy goes to her husband and to her relatives in India and I do hope that there will be such a satisfactory investigation as meets those family needs and also meets the state's responsibility. And, also particularly above all else, out of it women will be safer and get the medical services to which any woman is entitled in any part of the world," he told journalists.
His intervention increased the pressure on the ruling coalition already split over the government’s handling of the case. The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton welcome the President’s remarks describing them as ``considerate, thoughtful, reflectful and humane’’.
Earlier, Savita’s husband Praveen threatened to withhold her medical records from the inquiry set up by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) and insisted on a ``fully independent’’ probe.
The government’s decision to drop three doctors of the Galway University Hospital, where Savita died, from the inquiry was not enough, he said.
“I am not happy with it. They just set up a panel and didn’t consult us at all. I am not happy with the HSE. The HSE are the ones who messed up Savita’s care. Basically I am insisting on a public inquiry,” he told The Irish Times.
His lawyer Gerard O’Donnell rejected Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s appeal to Mr Halappanavar to meet the inquiry chief Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran to discuss his concerns.
“To do so would be in some way to acquiesce with the investigation or the person appointed by the HSE to investigate,” said Mr O’Donnell.
As the demand for an independent inquiry gathered momentum, the Health Minister Minister James Reilly argued that it would be too time-consuming and the answers would be “an awful lot” slower to come out. Another minister, Brendan Howlin, said the government was “open to any ideas” but did not want “a tribunal that goes on forever’’.