Commentary | Savita Halappanavar, the Indian woman who died in Ireland after she was denied a seemingly life-saving abortion, has been in the news internationally after the circumstances leading up to her possibly avoidable and certainly tragic death were revealed.
Savita Halappanavar’s husband Praveen described the horrific circumstances that led to his wife’s death in an Irish hospital after she was refused an abortion, explaining that her pleas for treatment to save her life fell on deaf ears as a miscarriage led to fatal blood poisoning and the loss of the 31-year-old dentist as well as her unborn child.
And now Savita Halappanavar’s parents have spoken out about their daughter’s death on Irish soil, blaming a combination of religious influence on laws (the family is Hindu and not Catholic) as well as medical negligence in Savita’s demise.
In India, A. Mahadevi, Halappanavar’s mother, questions why the tenets of another religion ultimately dictated a lack of life-saving treatment as Savita lay dying during the miscarriage:
“In an attempt to save a 4-month-old fetus they killed my 30-year-old daughter. How is that fair you tell me? … How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians.”
Halappanavar’s fetus was, at the time she was hospitalized, being miscarried. But due to the fact a heartbeat was still detectable even as the miscarriage fatally progressed untreated, Irish doctors refused to render aid that would have endangered the likely-unviable pregnancy.
Savita Halappanavar’s death was duly tragic, as it illustrates how Irish abortion laws, in a way that is not very intuitive, don’t stop women from seeking abortions. An estimated 4,000 Irish women travel to England each year to have abortions, but those who (like Halappanavar) experience life-threatening complications during a pregnancy are prevented from receiving the treatment needed to save them.
Adding to the horror of Savita’s experience is the fact that she was forced to seek an abortion for a wanted and planned for pregnancy, one that her husband said she was overjoyed to discover. And as she coped with the loss, she was instead left to die, likely terrified and (as a medical professional herself) fully aware of the situation’s gravity and the dimming hope she would survive as it the refusal to treat her continued.
Do you think Savita Halappanavar’s case is a tragic example of how religion or politics and medicine are dangerous bedfellows?