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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 24 April, 2014

Savita inquest: Jury returns verdict of medical misadventure

Praveen Halappanavar heard the verdict on his fifth wedding anniversary.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE JURY AT the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar has returned a unanimous verdict of medical misadventure.

After two hours and 45 minutes of deliberation, it also accepted the coroner’s nine recommendations, with the foreman stating it “strongly endorses” each and every one after much consideration.

The cause of death of the 31-year-old dentist was septic shock, E.coli in the bloodstream and a miscarriage at 17 weeks.

In his verdict, Dr McLoughlin expressed his sympathies to Praveen Halappanavar, telling him: “You will always be watched over by the shadow of your beloved Savita.”

Earlier, Dr McLoughlin charged the 11-person jury, giving them two options – to return a verdict of medical misadventure or to return a narrative verdict.

He noted that a medical misadventure verdict does not infer criminal or liability. It is also not cause of death. Immediately after the verdict was read, the coroner and the legal team for Galway University Hospital clarified that the medical misadventure is not cause of death nor a contributory cause of death.

“The verdict of misadventure does not mean that system failure or deficiencies contributed to her death,” explained Dr McLoughlin. They are findings in relation to the management of her treatment.

Many of the coroner’s nine recommendations will have implications across the country’s hospitals.

Ms Halappanavar’s death has brought the issue of Ireland’s abortion laws back into the global spotlight and making comment on the topic today, Dr McLoughlin said, “It is not for the court to advise the Oireachtas but they may take cognisance of these proceedings.”

However, in his first recommendation he described current Medical Council guidelines on abortion as “very brief”.

He recommended that the guidelines be enhanced to advise doctors on how they can intervene in relation to terminations when there is a risk to the life of the mother.

He said that doctors practising in good faith “should not have to labour under the threat” of sanctions as serious as removal from the medical register or prison.

That recommendation was accepted by the jury.

Earlier today, Dr McLoughlin heard a submission from Mr Halappanavar’s lawyers and a response from the hospital’s legal team. The jury was not present.

On arriving to Galway County Hall, Mr Halappanavar told reporters today marks the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. This fact was also noted by Mr Gleeson during his application.

Savita inquest: Key moments from Galway Coroner’s Court

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