Ireland opens new probe into death of woman denied abortion

Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:54am EST
 

By Lorraine Turner and Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has opened a new investigation into the death of a woman denied an abortion of her dying fetus, as the government scrambled to stem criticism of its handling of an incident that polarized the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year old dentist, was admitted to hospital in severe pain on October 21 and asked for a termination after doctors said her baby would not survive, according to husband Praveen, but in a country with some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, surgeons would not remove the fetus until its heartbeat stopped days later.

Husband Praveen Halappanavar, who believes the delay contributed to the blood poisoning that killed his wife on October 28, has said he would not cooperate with an investigation already launched by the country's health service because he did not believe it would be neutral.

On Friday, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) watchdog, which is government-funded but independent of the state health service, said it had also launched an investigation after receiving information from the health service and University Hospital Galway, where Halappanavar died.

A solicitor acting on behalf of the husband said the new inquiry was unlikely to be enough to satisfy his client.

"My client has always made his position very clear ... He wants a public inquiry. He has made it clear he wants to get to the truth of the matter, so I don't think that the framework of HIQA will suffice," Gerard O'Donnell, told RTE radio.

He added that the next step would be to consider an application to the European Court of Human Rights, which criticized Ireland's abortion ban in 2010.

Halappanavar's death has reopened a decades-long debate over whether the government should legislate to explicitly allow abortion when the life of the mother is at risk.   Continued...

 
A woman holds a poster during a vigil in Dublin November 17, 2012, in memory of Savita Halappanavar and in support of changes to abortion law. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton