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HSE says independent expert to be part of investigation into Savita death

The death of Savita Halappanavar has sparked an outcry and led to calls for abortion legislation in Ireland.

A candlelit vigil was held for Savita outside Leinster House in Dublin last night
A candlelit vigil was held for Savita outside Leinster House in Dublin last night
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive has said that an “independent, external expert in obstetrics and gynaecology” is to be part of the team which investigates the death of Savita Halappanavar.

The 31-year-old woman died at Galway University Hospital last month following a miscarriage with her husband claiming that she was denied an abortion before later dying of blood poisoning.

The case has sparked an outcry with protests outside the Dáil last night as well as in Cork and the Irish embassy in London with fresh calls for the government to legislate for the Supreme Court X case ruling on abortion.

The HSE said in a statement that its National Incident Management Team will over see a review into the circumstances of Savita’s sdeath.

“To further strengthen this review the HSE is in the process of appointing an independent, external expert in obstetrics and gynaecology to the incident management team,” a statement from HSE West said.

The terms of reference of the review and the members of the review team are still being finalised but it is expected to take three months for the review to be completed.

The statement continued: “The process of incident review seeks to ascertain the facts relating to the incident, draw conclusions and make recommendations in relation to any steps that may need to be taken to prevent a similar incident occurring again.

“As part of this process the National Incident Management Team will liaise with Mr Halappanavar as next of kin.”

‘Facts yet to be established’

The hospital involved in the case has said that it cannot discuss the case with media but said that the coroner had been notified as had the National Incident Management Team.

A statement from Galway Roscommon University Hospitals Group said: “In the case of a sudden maternal death, these procedures are followed: notification of the death to the coroner; notification of the death to the HSE’s National Incident Management Team; the completion of a maternal death notification form.

“These national procedures are being followed by Galway University Hospital. It is standard practice to review unexpected deaths in line with the HSE’s National Incident Management Policy.”

The group said that it wished to emphasise that the facts of the case are yet to be established.

With Savita’s death having raised the issue of abortion again, the government confirmed yesterday that it had received the report of the expert group set up to examine the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights which said a failure to legislate for the X case was “inexcusable”.

Health Minister James Reilly has said that he will now review the report before bringing recommendations to Cabinet but there is no indication of how long this will take.

In a statement last night the Pro Life campaign said that it is “deplorable” that there were calls for abortion legislation in the wake of Savita’s death.

“It is deplorable that those who want to see abortion available here are exploiting Mrs Halappanavar’s tragic death when the Medical Council Guidelines are very clear that all necessary medical treatment must be given to women in pregnancy,” PLC’s Dr Ruth Cullen said.

Read: Government response to ABC case to be examined by European Court of Human Rights body

Read: ‘Over 2,000′ attend sit-down protest for Savita at Leinster House

VIDEO: TDs debate the death of Savita Halappanavar

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Hugh O'Connell

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