THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive (HSE) has formally asked the country’s health watchdog to carry out a statutory inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.
The director general-designate of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, has said he has asked the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to conduct its own inquiry into the death of the 31-year-old dentist at Galway University Hospital last month.
Savita died after contracting blood poisoning following a miscarriage. Her family claim that was denied an abortion despite numerous requests to doctors at the hospital.
HIQA said this afternoon that its board is meeting to consider the request and it plans to issue a further statement later today.
O’Brien told RTÉ’s News at One that he made the request to HIQA having watched Savita’s husband, Praveen Halappanavar, give an emotional interview to Prime Time last night in which he said he would not cooperate with the HSE inquiry.
His solicitor has also claimed that there is no information in Savita’s hospital file on the requests for termination of the pregnancy that Savita’s husband insists they made before she died.
O’Brien said that no one could have watched the interview with Praveen Halappanavar last night without having “total empathy” for him.
The board of HIQA is currently meeting to consider the request from the HSE.
In a statement the agency said it “has received a request from the Health Service Executive to undertake a statutory investigation into the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway. The board of the Authority is considering this request and will issue a statement later today”.
In his earlier interview with RTÉ, O’Brien rejected claims from some pro-life activists about the credibility of the independent expert leading the HSE inquiry who has previously called for liberal abortion laws in countries which do not have them.
O’Brien said that Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran was seeking to find out why Savita died and “no more and no less” than that.
He also said that despite the lack of any cooperation from Savita’s family with the HSE inquiry it would be “criminally negligent” not to proceed with it.
O’Brien also said that consent was not required to access Savita’s medical records – which her husband wants to withhold from the probe – as they are the property of the HSE.