The head of the official inquiry into Savita Halappanavar’s death was on Tuesday reported to have sought a face-to-face meeting with her husband Praveen after he demanded a “full public inquiry” saying he had “no faith” in an internal probe and would not cooperate with it.
His lawyer Gerard O’Donnell said that Mr. Halappanavar did not want anyone from Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) or the Galway University Hospital, where his wife died after being refused abortion, to be included in the inquiry team.
“Praveen Halappanavar has no faith in Ireland’s HSE. He feels that anybody who is appointed by the HSE and paid for by the HSE to conduct an inquiry into his wife’s death won’t meet the criteria that we would advise him as lawyers of getting to the truth,” Mr. O’Donnell told Ireland’s RTE Radio.
In a separate interview, Mr. Halappanavar, who returned from India, said that the truth would not come out unless there was a “fully independent inquiry.”
“The truth must come out. Unless it is a fully independent inquiry, the truth will not come out. It does bother me that people from the Galway hospital are on the inquiry panel. I will basically request that there be no one from Galway on it,” he said, calling for a change to Ireland’s controversial anti-abortion law.
“The law has to change. Maybe Savita was born to change the laws here [Ireland].”
Mr. O’Donnell said he shared Mr. Halappanavar’s concerns about the sort of internal investigation that had been ordered.
“Evidence won’t be taken under oath, it won’t be cross examined so I wouldn’t be satisfied with that and neither would our client. I think it is inappropriate that anybody who was involved should conduct an inquiry into their own actions. The HSE are very much at the centre of this and they are purporting to inquire into their own actions or the actions of their staff… we want the evidence taken in public and people tested by way of cross examination.”
The HSE said it was “taking the concerns of Mr. Halappanavar extremely seriously” and was “currently examining the make-up of the investigation team.”
Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, who is heading the inquiry, was reported to have requested a meeting with Mr. Halappanavar. He assured that the presence of internal people would not undermine the credibility of the probe.
“The main reason we have internal people involved is not for them to give specific directions, but to find out about their standard practice,” said Prof. Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St. George’s Hospital, University of London.
Mr. Halappanavar’s demand was supported by several Irish MPs and rights activists.
Michael McGrath, a member of the Opposition Fianna Fáil, urged Health Minister James Reilly to sit down with Mr. Halappanavar to ensure the investigation had the full support of the family.
An inquiry “without the active cooperation of Ms. Halappanavar’s husband, is dead in the water before it even begins,” he said.