Thursday, November 15, 2012

Public anger at hospital case

                                     PHOTO; IRISH TIMES



The death of a woman in Galway University Hospital on 30th October last has led to spontaneous outbursts of public anger on the streets of Dublin and other cities tonight as revelations that the serious condition of the lady concerned may have been prolonged and allowed to deteriorate because of Catholic Church dogmas invoked by medical staff at the hospital. More than 3,000 people held a protest vigil outside Leinster House this evening at 6pm. There were also demonstrations in other cities and outside the Irish Embassy in London.

Two investigations are under way into the death of the woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month. Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”. She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

A hospital spokesman confirmed the Health Service Executive had begun an investigation while the hospital had also instigated an internal investigation. He said the hospital extended its sympathy to the family and friends of Ms Halappanavar but could not discuss the details of any individual case. Mr Halappanavar took his wife’s body home to India on Thursday, November 1st, where she was cremated and laid to rest on November 3rd.

The case has led to immediate calls for legislation to clarify the law regarding termination of pregnancy following two referenda and a Supreme Court judgement in the past 20 years on other cases and a demand for explicit legal protection for mothers' health and welfare in such circumstances. There is huge embarrassment for the Government here in the failure to produce effective legislation in 20 years following on its recent failure to secure a credible vote in support of its proposals in last week's constitutional referendum where a shock 42% of those voting said NO.

Since the case also involves a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 demanding that Government here produce effective legislation as described above, there is also acute embarrassment for Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Éamonn Gilmore, Leader of the Labour Party who, only yesterday was boasting about Ireland having secured a seat for three years on the UN Human Rights Committee. The fallout from this case, with a torrent of negative comments about Ireland's human rights deficit sweeping social and other media across the world, will resonate for a long time to come and the Government which fails to act promptly will suffer the political consequences with searing certainty.

As outrage grows, a further public protest has been declared for Saturday next, 17th November and is expected to bring the Capital to a halt.

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