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: °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Praveen Halappanavar thanks midwife for honest answers at inquest

“I would like to thank her for being honest…it came out of the blue,” he said this morning.

Image: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

THE HUSBAND OF the late Savita Halappanavar has thanked a midwife from Galway University Hospital for confirming her remarks about Ireland being a Catholic country as a part-explanation for his wife not being able to receive a termination last October.

Speaking to reporters outside the Coroner’s Court in Galway, Praveen Halappanavar said he was surprised but pleased with the testimony of Ann Maria Burke yesterday.

“I would like to thank her for being honest…it came out of the blue,” he said this morning, adding that he understood her point of view.

“It is very difficult, I’ve seen it all. The way she was treated was horrendous so…it’s just some comfort that the truth is coming out.”

Burke, who is a manager at St Monica’s ward at Galway University Hospital, confirmed she made the comment mentioned by family friend Mrudala Vasepalli during Tuesday’s proceedings.

“We don’t do that here, dear. It’s a Catholic thing,” Vasepalli recalled being told by the midwife.

Burke told the court that she did not mean it in a hurtful way. She said the phrase had “come out the wrong way and I’m sorry that I said it”.

“It does sound very bad now, but at the time I didn’t mean it that way.”

The coroner Ciaran McLoughlin said the remark had been picked up around the world but stated Irish public hospitals did not operate under religious dogma of any persuasion.

During today’s hearings, the inquest heard that eight retrospective entries were made to Savita Halappanavar’s 110-page medical file. The extra information was added to what were supposed to be contemporaneously taken notes. Some details were added two weeks after her death.

Dr MacLoughlin said he’d never seen so many retrospective entries in a patient’s medical records. A lawyer representing the hospital, Declan Buckley, noted that the entries were clearly labeled by date, claiming they were added to ensure the most detailed record of care decisions was presented to the court. He said there was “never any intention to mislead anyone”.

There was also more evidence heard today from the medics who treated the 31-year-old pregnant woman in the days before she died.

Lawyers for Halappanavar issued a statement to the court praising the emergency room staff for their “valiant efforts” to save his wife as she fell into a coma and her organs failed.

Yesterday, questioning focused on when a termination of offered by Dr Katherine Astbury. The consultant said she discussed termination with Savita when she requested medicine to expedite the process after she was told the outlook on the pregnancy was poor.

Astbury told the court she had explained to Savita that the legal position in Ireland did not permit her to carry out a termination at that time.

“I also informed Mrs Halappanavar that if she did not continue to improve we might have no option but to consider termination drugs.”

The inquest also heard evidence of systems failures  indicating that hospital staff broke accepted protocols for monitoring the health of a woman miscarrying, especially regular checks for blood poisoning and ensuring that all key staff saw the blood-test results promptly.

Savita Halappanavar died on 28 October from complications as a result of septicaemia. She had been admitted to the hospital on 21 October. She was 17 weeks pregnant.

Praveen Halappanavar said the inquest was his last chance to discover the truth about how and why his wife was treated. Nearly 70 statements from hospital staff, police and other sources have been gathered for the inquest but not all of their authors will appear as witnesses. The inquest is expected to continue into the middle of next week.

Additional reporting by Conor Barrins, AFP and Associated Press

Inquest into Savita death enters fourth day

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