THE Irish Government is to be commended for acting swiftly to reform the country’s abortion laws after Savita Halappanavar, 31,an Indian-born dentist who was miscarrying died after being refused an abortion in an Irish hospital, last October.
Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland except if there is a substantial risk to the mother’s life but there has been much confusion about implementing it. The new legislation is aimed at clarifying the rules that legalise abortions in exceptional cases where doctors deem it necessary to save a woman’s life.
But when the Government published a draft abortion bill on Thursday aimed at ensuring that the horrifying Halappanavar incident is never repeated, hysterical anti-abortionists turned their fury on Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who – according to this report – revealed in Parliament that he had received plastic foetuses and letters written in blood claiming he is a murderer.
I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer, and that I am going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies.
Kenny said he was a Catholic but he was proud to be a Taoiseach, or prime minister, for all the Irish people.
Meanwhile, an Irish Health Service Executive review into the death of Savita Halappanavar has identified failings in her health care. It concluded that staff did not adequately monitor her deteriorating condition and failed to:
Offer all management options to a patient experiencing inevitable miscarriage.
The report also said existing clinical guidelines related to the management of sepsis and septic shock were not correctly adhered to by staff.
The review team stated:
There was a lack of recognition of the gravity of the situation and of the increasing risk to the mother which led to passive approaches and delays in aggressive treatment. This appears to have been either due to the way the law was interpreted in dealing with the case or the lack of appreciation of the increasing risk to the mother and the earlier need for delivery of the foetus.
The HSE review added that there was:
An apparent over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother.
The investigation team’s report also said:
The interpretation of the law related to lawful termination in Ireland, and particularly the lack of clear clinical guidelines and training is considered to have been a material contributory factor in this regard.
The review team added that “similar incidents with a similar clinical context could happen again” unless there was:
Clarity as to the application of the law in a situation where it may be necessary for a doctor to consider, in the exercise of their clinical professional judgement, the termination of a pregnancy in the clinical welfare interest of their patient.
The report also said there could be a repeat of the Halappanavar case:
In the absence of appropriate national clinical guidelines on the clinical management of inevitable miscarriage. Among its recommendations, the review team stated:
There is an immediate and urgent requirement for a clear statement of the legal context in which clinical professional judgement can be exercised in the best medical welfare interests of patients.
In its call for new guidelines for doctors, the team added:
We recognise that such guidelines must be consistent with applicable law and that the guidance so urged may require legal change.
In April, an inquest into Halappanavar’s death recorded a verdict of medical misadventure.
The eight-day hearing, held in Galway, concluded there had been failures in her health care at the hospital, but did not apportion individual blame.
The inquest found there had been poor communication between staff members, inadequate assessment and monitoring and a failure to follow up blood test results that would have indicated the presence of infection.
Following world-wide controversy over Mrs Halappanavar’s death, which reopened the debate about the Irish Republic’s abortion law, the HSE launched its clinical review of her health care last November.