Inquest into Savita death to begin tomorrow

An inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar an after she suffered a miscarriage in University Hospital Galway will begin tomorrow.

The Indian dentist was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital on October 21 last year and died a week later from suspected septicaemia, days after she lost her baby.

The 31-year-old's widower Praveen maintains the couple repeatedly requested a termination but were refused because the foetal heartbeat was present.

He says they were told Ireland "is a Catholic country''.

His solicitor, Gerard O'Donnell, has said the widower was not satisfied with the conclusions of a report by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Several expert witnesses are expected to give evidence during the inquest in Galway city, scheduled for one week, including the former master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Peter Boylan.

More than 50 statements have been furnished by health chiefs and gardai for the coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, who has promised the inquest will be transparent and open to public scrutiny.

Mr Halappanavar, a 34-year-old engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, has so far refused to co-operate with separate investigations by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and the HSE's clinical review.

He previously said his late wife is giving him the strength to fight for the truth and that he will make a decision on whether to take the Irish Government to the European courts in pursuit of a public inquiry after the inquest.

Mr Halappanavar was said to be unsatisified with the draft findings of the HSE's clinical review, which was handed to him on Good Friday.

It revealed there was an over-emphasis on the need not to intervene while there was a foetal heartbeat and that staff failed to recognise and diagnose the life-threatening infection in time.

It also reportedly found confusion among medical teams on the interpretation of Irish law on abortion.

The HSE has apologised over the treatment given to Mrs Halappanavar.

The agency's review will be updated with inquiry chairman Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran - head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's Hospital, University of London - to include Mr Halappanavar's concerns before it is brought before cabinet and published.

Elsewhere, an investigation by the health watchdog, Hiqa, is examining the safety, quality and standards of services provided by the HSE to patients, including pregnant women, at risk of clinical deterioration and as reflected in the care and treatment provided to Mrs Halappanavar.

The death of Mrs Halappanavar thrust the controversial issue of abortion in Ireland into the spotlight, with pro-choice and pro-life groups both staging intermittent demonstrations over the last few months.

The Government has committed to legislate and introduce regulations to allow abortion if there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life, including the threat of suicide, by July.

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